This year, the Family Education and Support Group at Sound Beginnings has taken off! Each month families who have children with hearing loss have the opportunity to come together to learn and share their experiences with one another while enjoying breakfast together. The Sound Beginnings Family Education and Support Group provides a way to bring families together so they can support one another, learn how to advocate for their child with hearing loss and ultimately learn how to teach their child to advocate for themselves. For families who have just learned that their child has a hearing loss, this support group is invaluable. Parent-to-parent connections help families as they come to terms with their child’s diagnosis and take the steps necessary to ensure optimal outcomes for their child. Since the Family Education and Support Group began in January of 2014, we have held the following meetings:
Helping Your Child Become a Strong Self-Advocate –When a child learns how to advocate for their specific needs related to their hearing loss, they experience a much higher level of self-confidence, social skills, and academic success. During this meeting ideas were shared on how parents could build their child’s self-advocacy skills starting with the basics such as being able to make choices and express their likes/dislikes, all the way to independently caring for their hearing equipment, creating brochures for their mainstream teachers and participating in and in ultimately leading their IEP meetings. Parents left this meeting armed with ideas on how to build their child’s self-advocacy skills.
Understanding and Navigating the IEP- The IEP process can often times leave parents feeling overwhelmed, intimidated, and unsure of their rights. This particular Sound Beginnings Family and Education Support Group was aimed at empowering parents to know that they are key members of their child’s IEP team and helped them understand how the IEP process works (evaluation determines the child’s needs-needs determine the child’s goals-goals determine the services needed-services needed help determine appropriate placement). Resources were shared with families that will help them navigate their child’s IEP long after their time at Sound Beginnings is through.
Behavioral Support 101- Parents specifically requested that we cover this topic because they felt their child with hearing loss exhibited more behavioral issues then their children with typical hearing. Dr. Thomas Higbee, a professor of Special Education and Rehabilitation at Utah State University specializes in behavior management and came to share with families. Dr. Higbee armed families with the tools and strategies they needed to analyze their children’s’ behaviors in order to diminish the negative and increase the positive behaviors.
Ask the Audiologist-Having a full hour to ask Dr. Cache Pitt and Dr. Elizabeth Preston questions about their child’s hearing loss was extremely helpful for parents. Not only were Dr. Pitt and Dr. Preston able to answer parents’ individual questions, but parents were also able to share their personal experiences to help other parents who were in the beginnings stages of the cochlear implant process.
Self-Concept and Social Skills- This Sound Beginnings Family Education and Support Group was all about providing strategies for helping children develop a positive self-concept that would help them go on to have improved social skills. Resources and handouts were given that provided activities families could do at home with their children to assist in social skill development. Many parents shared the similar concerns they had for their child with hearing loss and were able to support one another and brainstorm ideas together on ways to help their children build and maintain friendships.
The Sound Beginnings Family Education and Support Group was started by a professional at Sound Beginnings who also has a daughter with hearing loss. When thinking back to the early days of her daughter’s diagnosis, she admits that her family felt very alone and unsure of how to help their daughter. Her goal in starting up the Family Education and Support Group was to ensure that no other family had to experience those same feelings. Empowering families with support from others in similar circumstances and arming them with knowledge about their child’s hearing loss and development will help us at Sound Beginnings to fulfill our mission which is, “Partnering to help children with hearing loss reach their full potential today and tomorrow.”