7 Challenges Faced By Parents Of Deaf Children

7 Challenges Faced By Parents Of Deaf Children

Raising any child brings its own set of challenges, however parents of deaf and hard of hearing children often encounter unique obstacles that require resilience, adaptability, and a whole lot of advocacy!

In this blog post, I'll explore seven challenges that parents of deaf children commonly face, with the hope of shedding more light on the complexities involved when raising these incredible kids.

*NOTE: Let it be known, that the points listed below are not due to the deaf child themselves (believe me, they are perfect!), but to the ever-present lack of access, inclusion and awareness they are forced to navigate every single day.

 

1. Having to give up work early on

One of the first & primary challenges encountered by parents on the journey is the limited access to inclusive care / early learning environments that not only promote inclusion, but actually implement it within the culture of their program as a core component of practice. Many parents find themselves having to cut down their hours at work (or give their job up all together!) due to the lack of inclusive and accessible early educational environments for their children. The struggle to secure a quality early learning program becomes a barrier, not only for the child language, communication and social / emotional development, but also for the family's financial stability.

2. Poor access to entertainment & events

Attending theatre shows, movies and other public events can be a daunting task for parents of deaf children. The loud music blaring through the speakers, the huge crowds of people, the missed dialogue and the absence of interpreters at these venues limits the child's ability to enjoy these cultural and recreational activities - even after many openly advertise that they are inclusive of all children. This particular challenge not only isolates the child from enriching experiences that enhance their development and understanding of their world, but also places emotional strain on the parents, often leaving them feeling frustrated and deflated.

3. Becoming their child's personal interpreter

Every activity a signing deaf child participates in requires sign language interpretation - yet due to a lack of awareness that denies young deaf and hard of hearing children funding for interpreting - parents have no choice but to step up and interpret each and every one of these activities.

From sporting events, to extra-curricular activities (and even social interactions!) - parents find themselves constantly breaking down communication and language barriers for their child so that they can rightfully access these programs on the same basis as their hearing peers. 

4. Dealing with relationship & friendship breakdowns

The unique journey of raising a deaf or hard of hearing child can unfortunately often lead to strained relationships with spouses and other family members as well as complete breakdowns in friendships. Misunderstandings and frustrations arise when others struggle to comprehend the nuances of the unique experience these families are on and the fight for access & inclusion many parents find themselves in on a sometimes daily basis. When this happens, families tend to gravitate towards people and communities who not only "get" their experience, but who can also provide critical support during the ups and downs of the journey.

5. Engaging in uncomfortable conversations

There aren't too many days in the year where a parent of a deaf child isn't expected to engage in an uncomfortable conversation of some sort. Whether it's advocating for their child's needs, addressing misconceptions about deafness, confronting societal biases or just trying to get the odd stranger on the street to stop throwing a 'pity party' for their child :S
The unfortunate reality is, parents have to constantly navigate these interactions and work out how best to approach them. Some days all that may be needed is some gentle education yet other days, it literally feels as if they are going into battle without any idea what comes next. The advocacy role alone can be the biggest drainer of energy for parents and for many, it can eventually lead to total burnout.
It is understanding which battles to filter that energy into that is the key to advocating smarter (not harder!)

6. Facing criticism with every decision

When a family are told their child is deaf or hard of hearing, they are instantly thrown into a world where decisions have to be made - right there and then. And for many parents, their beautiful new baby, is the first deaf person they have ever met! 
Yet all of a sudden they are expected to be the 'expert' of their child and make these huge decisions about language pathways, communication options, medical interventions and educational avenues; in the midst of trying to wrap their heads around their child's deafness themselves. At such a vulnerable time for families, the added pressure of trying 'not to rock the boat' adds an extra layer of stress to an already challenging journey.

7. Limited choice for inclusive school settings

Finding a suitable schooling environment that offers the necessary resources, access and understanding that deaf and hard of hearing children require, is a significant struggle for parents of deaf children (and seems to be the reason for many a sleepless night!). Unfortunately, schools for the deaf and those with bilingual bicultural programs are few and far between, yet even those with deaf and hard of hearing supports included, are rarely accessible or adequately set-up for the signing deaf child.
The limited options available that effectively cater to the unique needs of each, individual deaf and hard of hearing student can force parents into difficult decisions (with many choosing to homeschool or move away from family and friends to attend deaf-inclusive programs). Again, these decisions often have secondary impacts on their work and financial security as well as affecting their child's right to  rich educational experiences.
It's evident that parents of deaf and hard of hearing children confront a myriad of challenges every day, that have the potential to snowball into every facet of their lives.
I am honestly so in awe of the parents and families I have met along the way and the sheer resilience & strength they exhibit. I truly believe that by fostering a deeper understanding of the complexities around raising a deaf child, helping to advocate for change and doing our best to 'walk and talk' the inclusivity path; society can begin contributing in a more positive way to support the journey of raising a deaf child and make it a more manageable and accessible one for every family.
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