What is meant by the term unity? Unity implies harmony among parts to form a whole – the condition of many, becoming one. Family togetherness requires that each member of the family contribute to the family whole.
Parents, as the heads of the family, are indeed important in the development of the unit.
However, each individual member is key in maintaining the unit’s harmony. Each child contributes his/her personality, wishes and desires to add structure to the family unit just as a variety of colors, textures, and forms harmonize and provide structure to a beautiful landscape painting.
Parents of deaf and hard of hearing children encounter a unique challenge to relations unity. Since most parents of deaf and hard of hearing children are themselves hearing, they experience the feeling of being “different” from their child.
Some parents have stated that the child who was expected to be very much like them, after diagnosis of deafness, became a stranger with whom they had little in common.
The deafness affecting their child was a real difference that seemed to set them apart. Their deaf or hard of hearing child became the focus of the relationship unit rather than an active member of it.
The fact that hearing parents and deaf children do not experience the world in the same way demands adjustments in the family system.
Conditions affecting all members, influence unity in different ways. Deafness is a condition that has an impact on the family’s overall communication process and the entire communication system within the home.
The single largest issue facing parents in maintaining relations harmony is the task of involving all members in home communication.
For parents who are hearing, a main source of stress is the need to communicate with their deaf child in a different manner than they do with their hearing child.
Research has shown that deaf children with deaf parents who share a common language have an advantage when attempting a variety of life’s tasks. Communication within relations creates the bond that supports the structure of the family unit.
Hence, communication is the backbone of a strong relationship structure. When there is inadequate communication, the outlets for venting frustration and working through difficult situations as well as celebrating happy moments or subtle enjoyments are often limited.
Everyone’s interactions, both healthy and no so healthy, are forms of communication.
If you think back on some of your most enjoyable moments as a child, you may remember a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where you listened to them describe their past life experiences.
Or, you may remember sitting around your own parents dinner table where, during a meal, you discussed important things that happened to you on a particular school day.
Or, finally, you might recall Sunday trips by car to the local ice cream parlor where you anticipated telling your parents your favorite flavor of the day. Each one of these scenarios involves hearing and non-hearing members conversating. This is an important part of the relations system.
These conversations represents an important vehicle for developing intellectual and social skills, and for developing a sense of belonging. Only when the deaf child is accepted as an equal participant in the system, will the family be able to provide the full range of support that the child need.
Early communication difficulties between hearing parents and their deaf children may disrupt the process of conversation and future interactions. If deaf children have limited participation in their relations interaction, their access to family life is restricted.
A deaf or hard of hearing child is an important part of the family structure. If the child is separated, left out, or ignored while the family communicates – isolation occurs.
Parents may act differently with their deaf child than they do with their other children, altering family functioning, and, in turn, affecting future interactions.
SPECIAL ISSUES RELATED TO IRRESPONSIBILITY AND DEPENDENCE IN DEAF CHILDREN
Your child may have slipped into the habit of irresponsibility due to a number of factors: lack of knowledge of the child’s part; lack of expectations on the part of adults in the child’s world and /or the hearing public; lack of access to communication, and lack of appropriate devices, services, and resources.
When your child is introduced to and learns how to use a TTY, alarms, relay operators, interpreters, hearing aids, and TV closed captioning then he mini-minimizes his reliance on others for vital needs.
Some deaf people own hearing dogs, have visual alarms to alert them to important noises, such as their baby crying; and have houses designed with light switches in convenient locations, such as on the outside of rooms so that people can flick a light to get the attention of the deaf person inside the room. This takes the place of knocking on a door for deaf people.
However, having these items does not necessarily create “equal” access. A hearing aid simply helps with residual hearing – it does not turn the child into a hearing person.
A closed-captioned TV helps only if the child is able to follow the written English. A TTY and relay operator require practice and some written language capabilities.
An interpreter is useful in formal situations and must adequately match the child’s communication system.
Hearing aids are often a point of struggle for children and parents. Talk with your child’s audiologist to understand the type of hearing loss your child has and how the hearing aid might benefit him.
Teach your child the advantages of wearing an aid, but do not force the child to do so. Often children go through stages; they may choose to wear an aid only in certain situations; they may actually like the aid if their friends wear theirs, much in the same way that braces on the teeth have become more acceptable; or they may find the aid uncomfortable due to a bad fit or the nature of the amplification.
Listen to your child’s point of view regarding this. Do not make a struggle out of it since this allows the child to displace other feelings and situations onto this struggle.
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