Helping a Child with Hearing Loss… It’s a Family Affair

In honor of Grandparents Day (September 8th), let’s consider the special relationship between the child with hearing loss and his/her grandparents.

Grandparents have a unique role in the lives of their grandchildren. When faced with the diagnosis of a grandchild’s hearing loss, grandparents are concerned with the well-being of both their adult children and grandchild, making the diagnosis particularly difficult for the grandparent. Though it can take time to recover, grandparents can do much to help their children and grandchild.

Over the years I have met with hundreds of parents and grandparents who have been grieving following the diagnosis of hearing loss, and I have followed many of them throughout the course of their children’s lives. Many of those children are in (or have completed) college and/or are working and/or raising families of their own. We all know that in the past 30 years, the diagnosis of hearing loss has become less onerous given the new technologies and a more open society. So much more information and many more role models are in the public eye today. Still, many grandparents grew up in a time where negative stereotypes were prevalent. Like parents who may not know other children with hearing loss, grandparents need to first throw away any misconceptions they might have about hearing loss and educate themselves about options and possibilities – and there are many!!

Grandparents can be part of the team to help the child with hearing loss discover the possibilities and reach his or her potential.

How Grandparents Can Support a Child with Hearing Loss

Get informed:

  • Learn about hearing loss and its effect on your grandchild and the family.
  • Become a member of the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) and AG Bell; both organizations provide a wealth of information about hearing loss.
  • Read, read, read:  There are hundreds of books and online articles available.
  • For more personal support, seek out knowledgeable professionals and other parents and grandparents who have walked in your shoes. CHC can introduce you to other grandparents and families who have experienced what you are experiencing.

Support:

  • Support your child by listening to their concerns: The simple act of listening to your child’s concerns and joys and gently expressing opinions when asked can be of tremendous support.
  • Ask your child if you can attend a therapy session to see first-hand what’s going on and learn ways to reinforce the therapy sessions with your grandchild.

Enjoy:

  • Remember to enjoy your grandchild.  He/she is a child first and has a hearing loss second.
  • Talk to your grandchild, read to your grandchild and just spend time with your grandchild. If you are not living nearby, consider Skyping with your child and grandchild so that your grandchild can see you and hear your voice on a regular basis.

At the Center for Hearing and Communication, we include grandparents in our family programs and fundraising efforts. By encouraging grandparents to become involved in our annual golf event, assist with volunteer work in the office, take part in their grandchildren’s speech therapy hours, or speak with me for family counseling, we strive to keep each child’s team a family affair.

Dorene Watkins has been with the Center for Hearing and Communication for over 30 years, as a school psychologist working with kids as well as counseling parents and grandparents.

She started this work when she was a parent and has since become a grandparent herself, giving her a personal perspective on the topic of grandparenting.

Contact Dorene Watkins at (917) 305-7881 or dwatkins@CHChearing.org.