January 26, 2011

Doing What is Best For Your Child

I have been in many situations where the child is fighting or refusing something their parents and teachers thought that they would benefit from. This can be a tough situation. Do you continue to insist that the child does what you would like them to do or do you back off and have the child figure it out for him or herself? I suppose it depends on the situation, the child, the family, and other factors. What if your child refuses to eat his or her vegetables and insists on only eating candy? Most likely, you will not give in to your child's demands.

But what if it involves the child's hearing aids? What if it involves the child's preference for a communication mode over another? Do you listen to the child and go with his or her decision? Or do you continue to insist that the child wears the hearing aids or use a particular communication mode?

I had experienced many situations where a child refused to wear hearing aids and I am currently dealing with another situation where a child refuses to use and learn sign language.

Years ago, when I was volunteering in a self contained classroom, there was a first grader who would repeatedly 'lose' or 'misplace' her hearing aids. She did this quite frequently and it became obvious that she did not want to wear her hearing aids. She eventually told her teachers that she did not want to wear them. She would often take them out when no one was looking. After several months of her parents and the teachers trying to encourage her to wear her hearing aids (they even set up a rewards system), the parents finally realized that they can't force her to wear her hearing aids and that trying to encourage her to wear her hearing aids is clearly not working. So they stopped trying to make her wear her hearing aids. The child did well in her school and seemed much happier. The parents and teachers were much happier once they did not have to use up most of their time and energy trying to convince her to wear her hearing aids.

I recently spoke with her teacher at the time who still teaches at the school. We talked about this first grader and about how she refused to wear her hearing aids. The teacher told me that the following year, in second grade, the student decided that she wanted to try wearing her hearing aids again. She made the decision on her own. No one talked with her about it or tried to convince her. She realized that she did benefit from wearing her hearing aids and she actually liked them.

I currently have a student with a mild-moderate hearing loss who is obviously a "listener and speaker" (oral/aural). She loves to talk with others. She understands everything that is being said to her, unless it is whispered or unless she is in a noisy environment. She has a sign language interpreter in the classroom. The sign language interpreter does not sign everything that is being said. She is there more for support. She acts more as a para-pro or teacher's aide than an interpreter. This student has told me many times that she does not want to learn or use sign language. She does not want to tell the interpreter this, for she does not want to hurt her feelings. When I try to sign with her, she looks away or seems uninterested. She will insist that I talk instead. I always ask her, "Don't you want to learn sign language? It is such a neat language! Don't you think?" I don't exactly know why she does not want to learn or use sign language, but she has her reasons. When I ask her if she is embarrassed by it, she will say "No." I have asked her if it was hard for her to learn, and she said, "No." She has told me that she feels that she doesn't need it and that she prefers to talk. But, mom insists that she should have a sign language interpreter in the classroom.

Should we listen to the child and stop with the sign language for now or do we continue to insist that she learns and uses sign language? I almost feel as if we are hamsters running in their wheels going nowhere if we continue to push for her to learn sign language right now.

Maybe later when she is older she will want to learn sign language. I did not learn sign language until I was 23. I learned sign language because I wanted to. Other deaf signers have said that I am pretty fluent in it now, even though I feel as if I am not. But, I was surprised at how quickly I learned it. And it was so much fun. Why? Because I wanted to learn it. I don't think I would have felt the same way if others were insisting that I must learn sign language and I did not want to. I felt the same about speech classes. I thought they were a waste of time because all we did was play board games and say the same words over and over again. But, I did not tell anyone what I really thought of speech classes, because I thought it was just something I had to do and there was not much I can do about it. I think many kids are like this. But, for those few who are not afraid to voice their opinions, we need to listen and maybe let them make the decision. Sometimes you have to let go and relinquish some control. Children learn best when they fumble and make mistakes on their own. Maybe once you decide to let the child not wear hearing aids, they will realize that they really need them to do well in school and outside of school. Maybe you will realize that they do fine and dandy without hearing aids.

But, I can't imagine what you would do if it seems as if they really could benefit with hearing aids, but they refuse to wear them. That would be tough. There is a kid who refuses to wear hearing aids. Before he did very well in communicating with others and he did well in school. When he decided to not wear his hearing aids, he started to not do well in school. He seems to be struggling more with hearing and communicating with others. But, it could be other things going on, other than his hearing. He is a teenager and who knows how much of it has to do with his hearing. Perhaps he would be in the same situation if he was wearing hearing aids. Who knows. But, in reality we cannot force him to wear hearing aids. What are we going to do? Tape them to his ears?



  1. Is it ok to hope he'll learn from his frustration so he will wear his HAs all the time? And withholding knowledge of ASL from him (or refuse to give him a choice)? Some people do that and I think they will resent depending on a machine just to communication. My mom knew about ASL ( as her Aunts were signing deaf) and everytime I refuse to wear it, she is like well, she'll learn the hard lesson.she never gave me a choice. I still resent hearing aids.

    As for not wanting to learn ASL, I often wonder why most kids don't reject learning Grammar in school or even Spanish but some deaf reject learning ASL? I think her probably is that ASL is not being treated as a language but treated her as if she is handicapped in classroom. I'm sure she would not mine learning and using ASL privately.

  2. When our children were small, we kept a *very* tight rein on them. Then, as they grew we allowed them more freedom to make their own choices little by little. *And* we allowed them to deal with the consequences of their decisions. That meant we had to choose areas where the kids were able to deal on their own with the consequences of bad choices and we did not do for the child what he or she could do for himself. Once each child learned to dress himself, we stopped choosing what the child wore each day, subject to limitations of modesty. If he or she chose not to wear a coat on a cold day, we'd inform him or her that "it's supposed to be cold today". If he or she still chose not to wear a coat, we let him or her be cold and did *not* run a coat (or a lunch or homework) to school for him or her. If he or she left the coat at school, he or she had to go in the cold the next day. That's how children learn to be both independent and competent.

    The other part of this approach is choosing our battles. Do not try to control areas where the child has control and the parent really has no power. A good example of this is toilet training. A parent really has no control over a child's bowel or bladder, so do not choose that battle. We waited until each child was interested in learning toilet training before we assisted with the process, which then was pretty much painless. We were OK with toilet training at a later age. (If the age had stretched out till school age, then we might have taken a different tack, but it did not.) On the other hand, where it was an issue of health and safety, we were adamantine about being in control. As a side benefit, choosing our battles carefully and being iron-willed about winning the battles seems to have delayed for a very long time the day when each child realized that it was possible to defy us.

    I hope I've laid this out in a way that relates to your post.


  3. I feel at young age a child is no position to determine what language it will use, it will be assessed on ability. If a child is uncomfortable signing, then it is probably not a good idea to insist, (assuming there are other alternatives it will use). AS far as other issues are concerned I back the parent again, they will have more experience of the world and be more aware of the downfalls of making a bad decision. Kids grow up soon enough and ignore lol.... but they do in the long term appreciate rules.... but you must be consistent.

  4. What one must watch for is secondary reinforcement...if the child is using the battle over hearing aids as a way to get attention, he will drive his folks crazy. Picking battles carefully is the way to go.

    Since hearing and sign language are themselves self-rewarding, I'd try to bring in other reinforcements so that the child will WANT to use them. Friends who wear aids and listen to music. Friends who use sign language. After this point, it will depend on the actual benefit gained from these things and the child's ability to choose the most effective ways.

    This would apply to school-age children who are old enough to compare and choose. A little persuasion, demonstration and consistent reinforcement by praise and attention where it is appropriate can tip the balance a little more. Then again, waiting it out sometimes resolves the situation, as you have said, where at a later time the child wants to go back to using a hearing aid and/or to using signs.

  5. Wow, so I am becoming a regular commenter! (I can't help it, this blog is fantastic. I also really like the other blogs you've linked to. I'm only in my 3rd year as an itinerant (and the only one in my district), so still gathering all these great resources!) I agree with David. I tend to give my older kids more leeway; my younger kids, not so much. :) The argument I always use with my younger kids is the fact that they haven't even really had an experience yet. Usually talking about foods they thought they didn't like but now do, activities they thought they wouldn't like but now do, etc. seem to help. With older kids, I keep track with letter grades. It makes it easy to see if there is a huge dip once a student stops wearing their hearing aids. Then the deal is off!! It's difficult with those older kids, though. They are stubborn. I have almost all of my 5th through 8th graders go through a phase where they don't want to wear the hearing aids anymore. (Usually this happens with the students who don't use them consistently, or at all, at home either.) I have tried making them transfer their audiogram to a "common sounds audiogram" so we can talk about what sounds they miss and how they can be important. If the student has a girlfriend/boyfriend, I will even try to get the GF/BF to talk about how much they like my student's hearing aids to them! (I know, sneaky, but I will try anything.)

    Do you find that parents often want accommodations (hearing aid, sign language) at school, but do not follow through at home? If so, how do you combat that attitude?

  6. Jennifer,

    It is wonderful hearing from another itinerant teacher (especially a new on like me)! I am glad you enjoy this blog and the other blogs mentioned here. I have learned so much since I started blogging.

    I find that parents often want accommodations at school yet never follow through at home. This is usually the case with sign language. They request sign language interpreters, yet rarely or never use sign at home.

    I am still trying to figure out how to get through to them that it is crucial that they follow through. So far I find that constant contact with the parents and family members is helpful. Also, I stopped "sugar coating" the issue. Instead, I give them the cold hard facts and hope that they will take it more seriously.

    Please come back and comment as much as you want. Anytime you have any questions or ideas you would like to share please email me. Or you can start a blog! :)


  7. Thank you for the offer! It gets lonely being the only itinerant. :_( So I always appreciate an opportunity to talk with other itinerants! :D I did email you a link to my district website, that's about as close as I get to a blog.

  8. I have students like that, too. Usually, they begin to be 'conscious' about their HA usage sometime in early middle school. All of a sudden, their HA's are gone. I don't force the issue, though.

    I do point out that HA's are beneficial in the classroom, and encourage them to wear it there. Thank you for bringing up the issue!

  9. If the parents' philosophy is to relax about hearing aids, especially when hearing aids is not even close to natural hearing in begin with, Just tell the parents to give their kid another communication method that don't involve hearing aids.

    I would not be firm about it to the parents at all unless they chose oral only for their child and yet they dont make their child wear their device at all waking hours . If they plan to relax about hearing aids (as in letting them choose to wear it) then they must provide another communication method for them. Otherwise, I see it as neglecting.

  10. David,

    I liked your explanation and I thought it related to my post perfectly. Thank you for sharing.

  11. As far as the child who has a classroom interpreter, yet has no desire to sign or learn sign, get that interpreter off the IEP!

    I "interpret" for this one boy who has been in the deaf and hard of hearing program since pre-K, and is now in secondary. Unfortunately signing has a stigma attatched to it, and the stigma is that signing people are inferior. That belief is reinforced time and time again in schools and society in general. This boy, even though he has been in the classroom with interpreters, DOES NOT KNOW SIGN LANGUAGE. He will openly admit this to you, yet still an interpreter is on his IEP. You cannot voice-off sign to this child. Now, isn't this an incredible waste of resources? Why are they wasting an interpreter's time in the classroom with a child that wants no part of it? If the kid is telling you that she has no interest in ASL, believe her.

    As far as the hearing aids go, I have heard from many adults that they are uncomfortable and distort sound, so let them go with their gut on that one too. Sometimes it IS a social issue, so encourage them to grow their hair out a little bit.

  12. I still don't like using lack of hearing as consequences for not wearing hearing aids. It's like using lack of ability to move around as a consequences for not wearing a prosthetic limb. They were not given the choice to use a wheelchair or crutches.

  13. (e Thanks for the feedback!

    Re: asking for accommodations at school, but do not following through at home. I do not know if it is directly relevant, but I have seen something similar in a different setting. If something is *perceived* as government supplied "benefit", then the client wants it. No matter about need or if the client can even use it. If it is a "benefit", (s)he wants it. I've even heard it joked that you could convince a client to let you cut off a limb if you told him the surgery was part of his "benefits".

    Perhaps a form of entitlement mentality is at work.


  14. Right now a father in a N.W. State may loose custody of his deaf child because he refuses to force her to wear her CIs around him since he is deaf and she is able to grasp ASL easier as a deaf child. It is all so sad that this is happening to this child. The mom didn't force her either to wear the second implant for a couple of years after she got it until she saw the opportunity to use it against the deaf father.


Keep it civil.