Benefits of Early Intervention
It is important to always know that as parents, you are entitled to select the communication approach(es) you want to use with your child so he or she can develop language. The decision making process and the implementation of the chosen approach is known as early intervention. The emphasis of early intervention is on helping families become educated and comfortable as the child’s primary teachers of language. The family unit, not only the child with the hearing loss, is emphasized in early intervention.
One critical benefit of early intervention is that it allows the family to gather as much information as possible to make the best decision for their child’s language and communication approach. Once a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, it is important to speak with trained professionals such as audiologists, speech-language pathologists, educators of the deaf and/or otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat specialists) to understand the cause(s), as well as treatment options and approaches that are available and appropriate.
Early intervention is also important because the first few months of a child’s life are vital to the development of language and communication skills. Typically, at the 24th week of pregnancy the inner ear is fully developed and the child is able to hear some sounds. Within the first few months following birth, the child begins to distinguish various sounds such as human speech, and by age 2, the foundations for language (hearing and speaking) are developed. For a child with a hearing loss, delayed identification and intervention can adversely impact his or her language and cognitive development. Infants and young children whose hearing loss is detected early and who receive appropriate and timely intervention have an excellent chance to develop these skills alongside their typical hearing peers.
Within the first few months of your child’s diagnosis, you will discover there is a wide range of resources available to you. Your local school district or early intervention provider is a vital resource and can work with you to develop an Individual Family Service Plan, or IFSP, which serves as a road map for addressing your child’s hearing loss and intervention approach. Parent-infant programs offer a number of services, including consultation on acquiring hearing aids and assistive listening devices, parent counseling, explanation of the various communication options for children with hearing loss, and training in the communication approach selected on the advice of professionals and family preference.
When a child turns 3, he or she is ready for transition to a pre-school program if the family chooses. Times of significant transition can be challenging both for you and your child, particularly for a child with hearing loss. Preparation in the form of visiting the program, working with your current IFSP team to prepare for the transition, and having a clear idea of what you are looking for in an appropriate educational setting will help smooth this passage for you and your child. Learn more about Education Advocacy Training with this online course which provides an overview of the legal framework for special education law and your child’s educational rights.