Getting a good start on lifelong learning

We learn throughout our lives. From the moment we are born we learn by observing and imitating our parents, family and friends. Later on, as we attend schools, get jobs and lead active lives, we continue the learning process. Children with a hearing loss can live lives that are just as full and productive as other children. They just need additional support when learning. Children without hearing loss learn constantly, because they pick up all sorts of information. But a child with a hearing loss may need to have things carefully explained on a one-to-one basis. This may include such things as what you are planning to do today, where you are going to shop, what you are going to buy, or whom you are going to visit. By taking some time to explain these situations, you can help your child follow what is going on.

Extra effort required for abstract terms
Also, children with hearing loss may need extra help when learning new words and concepts. It can be fairly easy to teach them about objects, but teaching them about more abstract things can lead to misunderstanding and confusion. Because children with a hearing loss cannot hear the finer nuances of language they sometimes either take things too literally or over-generalise. Concepts such as time can be very hard to understand, so you may have to find different ways of explaining seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.

Encouraging by being a good example
One example of a typical misunderstanding of language was when a child asked his mother “How many spiders have eyes?” What he really meant was: “How many eyes do spiders have?” In this kind of situation, try drawing or using pictures to illustrate what you are trying to explain. Always talk to your child, even though he or she may not always seem to fully understand what you are saying. The only way to encourage them to develop a spoken language is by speaking yourself, and by setting a good example. And remember that your facial expressions and body language also tell an interesting story. When your child is talking to other people try to avoid taking on the role of interpreter or answering on his or her behalf. When explaining things, try to use short, clear sentences wherever possible.

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Useful learning opportunities outside school

Involve them in practical tasks
A task could be bicycle repairs. Name the different parts, explain how they work, and what you are doing.

Cook together
Explain where the different ingredients come from and let your child draw the animals involved.

Nurture their natural curiosity
If you go for a walk or drive, point out and describe the different things you see as you go by.

Open their ears to new impressions
Draw your child’s attention to particular sounds – such as running water or the squeaking of swings.

Solve puzzles or play computer games together
Working as a team, can make your child more confident in solving complex task later on their own.

Explain TV programmes and movies
Watch children’s entertainment together, pause it if possible and discuss what you are seeing.

Read bedtime stories
This helps to develop language, and nurture your child’s own interest in reading and seeking out information.

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