When you have a child with hearing loss, all your focus as a parent may be on their language development and speech production. It’s important to remember that their social-emotional development is just as important! Some ways to do this include the building of trust, loving touches, think- aloud and using emotional vocabulary. The following activities can build your child’s social-emotional development, and their language skills at the same time.
Trust and Bonding
Babies learn that when they cry, Mommy, Daddy, and/or the caregiver will respond to meet their needs. This could be when they need their diaper changed, would like to be fed, or simply want interactions like a cuddle, a smile, or some playtime. These early interactions create trust and bonding which are necessary for positive social-emotional development.
The daily routine can sometimes feel like it’s all about vocabulary building and expanding sentences. Remember—children actively seek humor and opportunities to laugh! The simplest way to begin incorporating silliness or humor is during read aloud sessions. You can have fun using different voices, changing the rate of speech, or even acting out the story. This is also great for the development of speech and language!
Another way to have some silly fun together is while folding the laundry. You could choose one family member’s clothing, such as Daddy’s, that you could gently throw up into the air before folding it. When throwing Daddy’s shirt in, use a variety of phrases or sounds such as “whoosh!”, “there it goes!” or “up high!” when placing clothes on a table. Or use “down low” when placing clothes in a basket on the floor. Getting silly is a wonderful way to share experiences with your child and bring plenty of smiles and laughter to learning.
Hugs and Kisses
Skin is the largest organ of the body with countless nerve endings. It is very important that babies and children receive loving touches whenever possible. In fact, two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin that are essential to positive social-emotional development, are increased through loving touches. Singing lullabies, nursery rhymes, and finger plays are wonderful ways to incorporate touch and eye contact with your child.
Talk About The “Why” in Making Choices
Making positive choices is part of life and important for the development of your child’s social-emotional skills. Demonstrate decision making by thinking your choices out loud. For example, if shopping for apples, let your child hear you talk about choosing the red apples over the green apples. “The red apples are sweet and great for snacking. The green apples are tart but not so great for snacking. Since we need snacks for our trip, we will get the red apples.” Though this language may seem complex for a young child, they need to see your facial expressions and supporting gestures such as pointing to the apples. As your child’s language skills progress, you will already be in the habit of teaching them these “think alouds” when making choices.
Real Life Conversations
Children with normal hearing can “overhear” the conversations of their parents, family members, or friends. For example, Mom and Dad may be in the kitchen having an excited conversation about the first snowfall of the year. A child with normal hearing, who is watching TV, will overhear the nuances in their voices and know that they are excited. This lays the foundation for a child to better understand others’ thoughts and feelings through hearing the emotions that are conveyed in their voices.
However, this is often different for your child with hearing loss. Your child may have a smaller “speech bubble”. Your child may be able to hear you talking in the kitchen, but they are unable to truly understand the nature of your conversation, i.e. that you are excited. You can help your child understand the emotion by having these conversations in front of your child, and using facial expressions or gestures to help show how you’re feeling.
Happy, sad, mad, or sleepy, are great adjectives to begin teaching your child. Depending on their level, introduce some other words to help your child express how they are feeling, such as excited, frustrated, worried, embarrassed, overjoyed or tired. Using different facial expressions combined with these emotive words to help your child to make connections between facial expressions and the words that they are hearing. Have some fun using these words during every day routines with your child, and point them out while reading stories.
The most important point of all in these activities: have FUN being SILLY!
This post was written by Virgi Mills, a bilateral cochlear implant recipient and a MED-EL USA Team member. Virgi was formerly a Pre-kindergarten teacher for children with hearing loss. Currently, Virgi is a Consumer Outreach Manager in the US supporting families on their cochlear implant journey as well as professionals in the hearing implant field.
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