Once you know that your child is deaf or hard of hearing, you will be faced with educational decisions that you may not have dealt with before.
Learn to Advocate or Speak Up on Behalf of your Child
Experienced parents encourage other parents to learn to advocate for their child who is deaf or hard of hearing as early as possible.
Why Your Child Needs You to Become an Advocate, A PACER Center publication, states that advocating for your child is one of the most important jobs you’ll ever have, and can have lifelong implications. For starters, no one understands your child like you do. You know his or her strengths, challenges, spirit, and dreams better than anyone. You have a vision for your child’s future and a sense of what it will take to achieve it. You have opinions on what is working and what is not. Your educational team members need you to provide this information to help them support educational goals and objectives with the vision you have for your child.
An “advocate” can be broadly defined as “someone who speaks up on behalf of others to make things better.” Advocacy covers a very broad range of activities that just about everyone, in many settings, does every day. Most of us have advocated for others. You have probably already had to speak up on behalf of your child to a teacher, day care worker, doctor, nurse, social worker, other parents, relatives, or friends.
Your child needs you to advocate for him or her in the area of education. Parents have a legal right and responsibility to advocate for their children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The federal special education law, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), requires parent participation. The special education services for a child are developed in a decision-making process involving the child’s parents and school district staff.
Professionals are qualified to serve your child by reason of their education; you are qualified to advocate for your child by reason of your role as the parent. You are the only person on the team who knows the complete child: how the child functions at home and in the community, the child’s medical and academic history, and your child’s interests, preferences, and desires.
Professionals have knowledge and expertise in a specific area, but they are only a temporary part of your child’s life. You are the only permanent member of your child’s educational team, at least until your child turns 18. Professionals deal with many children, while you only have your child to think about. Your child is served best if you and professionals work together.
To learn how to advocate for your child, visit:
- Minnesota Hands & Voices ASTra Educational Advocacy
- How to Communicate Effectively with Early Childhood Professionals (PACER Center)
- "Working Together: A Parent’s Guide to Parent and Professional Partnership and Communication Within Special Education" (PACER Center)
Educate Yourself About Educational Laws and Systems
As stated above, the federal special education law, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), requires parent participation. Special education services for a child are developed in a decision-making process involving equal participation by the child’s parents and school district staff. In order to participate equally, parents need to be informed as much as possible about the laws and how the educational system works.
The information below is only a starting point. We encourage you to check out the links below, ask questions of the professionals who serve your child and family, and talk to experienced parents. Minnesota Hands & Voices Parent Guides can refer you to other parents throughout the state.
In addition to IDEA, there are other laws that affect the education of children with disabilities. For children who are deaf and hard of hearing, the bottom line is that your child has a right to learn and to communicate. We recommend that you read federal government guidance at Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.
The focus of this resource is children who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, many of those children have special needs. Please be aware that each of the child’s special needs must be addressed.
More useful information:
- Contact the National Association of State Directors of Special Education to get a copy of Meeting the Needs of Students Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: Educational Service Guidelines (cost associated). | 703.519.3800 (V) | 703.519.7008 (TTY)
- Alexander Graham Bell Association | (202) 337-5220
- American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC) | 800.942.2732
- American Speech, Language, Hearing Association | 800.638.8255
- Beginnings for Parents of Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing | 800.541.4327
- National Association of the Deaf | Contact via email | Additional Resources
- National Cued Speech Association | 800.459.3529
- Supporting Success for Kids with Hearing Loss
Finally, Be Flexible
The decisions aren’t easy! When it comes to deciding which is the "right" approach to educating a child who is deaf and hard of hearing:
- Parents are sometimes bombarded with different types of advice
- Many people who advise parents are both well-intentioned and strongly opinionated
- Parents may have a tough time deciding what to do in face of controversial and conflicting information
So listen, review, and then decide. We suggest that it is helpful to learn about all the options in order to make an informed decision to fit the needs of your child and family. Be aware you may need to be flexible enough to change your mind and be willing to try something else so your child will benefit fully from his or her education.
We hope that the information provided for each of these points will be a helpful starting point as you work with others to make decisions.