Hesperian Health Guides
Where Can You Go for Help?
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A child who does not hear well needs extra help. Where you can look for help depends on where you live and on what resources are in your community and in your country. Here are some possibilities:
- Local deaf persons as teachers. Even a small village usually has some persons who have been deaf a long time. Probably they will have learned to communicate through signs and gestures. If you ask some of them to become the friends and teachers of a deaf child, and advisers to the family, often they will be glad to do so. They may remember the difficulties and loneliness of their own childhood and want to help provide the understanding and learning opportunities that the deaf child needs.
- Other families with deaf children. If several families with a deaf child can come together, share experiences, and learn as a group, this can be a big help. The younger deaf children can learn from older ones, or from deaf adults. Together they can develop a form of communication so that all the children and their families can understand each other.
- The National Association of the Deaf (or other group run by the deaf). Most countries have associations of deaf persons. These can give you information about the national sign language in your country, and perhaps send books for learning it. They can tell you about training programs for the deaf (government, private, and religious) and can advise which are the best. They may even provide brief training in basic communication skills to a local health worker, teacher, family member, or disabled child—with the understanding that he or she then teach others.
- ‘Special education’ programs or schools for the deaf. Many countries have schools where deaf children can live and receive special training. Some of these are good and some are not. Good programs try different methods of communication with each child and then focus on what will probably work best for that child in his community. Bad programs try to make all deaf children communicate only by lip reading or speech. For many children this can lead to failure, anger, and emotional harm. Try to get advice from educated deaf persons.
The Hesperian Foundation book Helping Children Who Are Deaf has many ideas to help deaf children learn a language and communicate to the fullest of their ability. It will also help parents make good decisions about the development of a child who is deaf.