By Tina Turbin, multi-award-winning children’s author
Since the release of my illustrated kids book, Danny the Dragon Meets Jimmy, as a DVD and iPad app with sign language interpretation, I've had the pleasure of meeting parents of hard of hearing kids and have found them to be highly engaged in their children's learning and development. This is wonderful to see, as studies show that parental involvement is vital in raising happy, successful children. In fact, parents of deaf children must be not only involved, but it's recommended that they engage in language-stimulating activities with their children from a very early age.
Not sure what activities to take up with your child? Don't worry, there are many to choose from, and with some imagination, you can even come up with your own.
According to Walden University, "Children with more involved parents who attempt to learn a language available to their child, such as ASL, generally develop language skills quicker than their peers with less involved families." Whereas hearing children develop their language skills largely through exposure to communication in early childhood, parents of deaf children need to be particularly focused on exposing them to language. Activities that get your child understanding the connection between language and objects and how language is used will help him or her gain necessary language skills.
First of all, don't underestimate the importance of unstructured play with your child. Hang out with them and show an interest in their toys and books and other play items. Play house with your child's stuffed animals and dolls, create a grocery store or cook dinner with your child's fake foods, or build a fort. Encourage your child to communicate, and most importantly, have fun.
Play card games or board games with your child. Some card games to try are Old Maid or Go Fish. If you're out of the house, such as on a car trip, grab a pen and paper and play Hangman. If your child is especially young, you can play with flashcards by asking questions about the pictures. Ask your child to name colors or what sound the animals make.
Keep a scrapbook of your activities with your child. Take pictures, collect keepsakes, and draw pictures of the activities you do together. For instance, go on a nature walk and have your child collect leaves to paste into the scrapbook. Flip through the book every now and then and talk to your child about how much fun those activities were.
A particularly effective language-building activity is using labels. Place labels on various objects around the house, such as furniture and the food in your refrigerator. You can also label cards with adjectives such as "small" or "blue" and have your child go around the house placing the labels on objects which fit these descriptions.
Get your child involved in commonplace activities such as running errands or cooking. For instance, when you're running errands, make a to-do list with your child and every time you complete a task, have him or her scratch off the item to mark it as done. When you go grocery shopping, have your child check off a list of items as you go. Have your child help you cook, following along with the written recipe.
As you can see, all that is required in helping your deaf child build language skills are some effort and imagination. Nearly any activity (as most activities require language or use objects with names) can serve as an opportunity for developing language. Get creative and have fun! Tina Turbin
Tina Turbin is a multi-award-winning children’s author, writer, researcher, humanitarian and mother. Having written her first children's story at age 16, she has enjoyed many years of working with and helping children and their families. Her Danny the Dragon children’s series fulfills a passion of hers to delight and entertain through her enchanting characters.
Her style of writing conveys to the young and young at heart. Tina resides in both her East and West Coast studios, always writing more children's books to entertain the world.