Hearing is often associated with speech in that initial communication and hence understanding, arises primarily from learning spoken language through listening. This is why speech therapy is a must for people with hearing impairment as well as complete involvement from the child’s family to help facilitate that child’s development. However, we need to remember that one size does not fit all.
I am a big believer in developing the auditory and oral (spoken) skills of children with who have a hearing loss but I also feel that there is room for sign language if needed. I am a realist. I do not think that one approach is the answer. One of the most frequent questions I am asked concerning the development of a child with a hearing loss is if their child learns sign language while trying to teach them to “learning to listen”, will that prohibit them from developing their auditory and oral skills. I tell them the answer is not so simple. Many variables come into play and there is no clear cut answer. My experience with teaching the deaf and providing services for children with hearing losses has shown me that the child will decided what is the easiest way to communicate is. I believe that if the child is implanted early enough during the first year of their life, the chances are that using sign language will not be an option, since these children often develop the necessary auditory skills to learn how to speak. On the flip side, I have seen many children who have were implanted later on or were aided with hearing aids and their preferred choice of communication is using sign or both. Each child is different and like I stated before, their choice of communication is based upon many variables.
In my practice I work with a range of children and adults who have a hearing impairment. Some have developed the skills to communicate successfully verbally, while others due to late implantation or hearing aid fitting, are trying to develop their auditory/oral skills but prefer to use sign as their primary mode of communication. I try to educate my families and let them know that communication is the ultimate goal. Do I support teaching child and adults to develop their auditory/oral skills to their fullest potential, of course I do, but I also support development of communication in any means possible.