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Becoming Independent

Read this page to find out how your school-age child can take small steps to start taking care of herself.

What becoming independent means
Like all parents, you want your child to grow up into a happy, healthy adult. You want your child to be able to take care of herself by the time she is grown up. You hope your child will have friends and a good job. You might also hope your child will start her own family one day.

Children have to learn a lot of different things before they can do all this. They need to learn how to:

  • be responsible
  • get along with other people
  • save money
  • and much more!

Learning these skills is all part of becoming independent. And becoming independent is a big part of growing up.

Remember: Children don't become independent overnight. It takes a lot of practice.

It can seem harder for children with a hearing loss. Some deaf children have a hard time communicating - that can make it harder to become independent. Some parents are always by their child's side, helping them talk to hearing people. But even your young child can start doing small things to take care of herself.

How to help your child become independent

little girl

Let your child make simple choices.

She can decide things like: Does she want to eat at McDonald's or at Burger King? Does she want to wear her blue sweater or her red jacket? Deaf children sometimes don't get as much of a chance as hearing children to decide things. Having your child make some decisions will show her that her opinion matters. It will also give her a feeling of control over some things. This is important for deaf children, who sometimes feel like things just seem to happen to them.

Teach your child to ask for things herself.

Like telling the waiter what food she wants at a restaurant. Or asking for the ice cream flavor she wants. This can take more time for deaf children. But it's important for your child to learn how to do these things for herself. You won't always be there to speak or interpret for her. And even though it might be hard at first, it will get a little easier each time. Your child will see that she can get along in the real world.

Learning to ask for what she wanted - on ice cream trips

Even when she was just learning letters, Dairy Queen had a kids' meal in a box to which was attached a tag good for a cone at the end of the meal. She'd decide if she wanted chocolate or vanilla. I'd slowly fingerspell the word while she printed it on the back of the tag. Then she'd go to the counter alone with the tag and get the flavor she wanted. As she got older the notes got more complex, and she developed a real sense of independence at the same time.

—   Lorna

Expect a lot from your child.

She will know if you let her get away with things that her brothers and sisters don't get away with. Like not cleaning her room, or not doing her homework. Your child might need extra help with some things, but she can still do the same things as children with normal hearing. Think about what your child can and can't do. Make sure she knows that you expect her to do what she can.

Teach your child to take care of her hearing aids or cochlear implant.

If your child uses a hearing aid or cochlear implant, then she needs to know how to use it even if you're not there to help. Show her how to put it in, and how to clean it. And how to check the battery and change it. Teach her to tell a grown-up when it isn't working.

Teach your child to be very careful, but let her do the things that other children do.

Like riding a bike and crossing the street by herself. Teach her to look both ways before she crosses the street. Make sure she knows that she might not hear a car horn. So she'll need to rely on things she can see to stay safe. Put rear-view mirrors on her bike, and teach her to look for cars behind her.

Have your child take some responsibility for her hearing loss.

Your child shouldn't always need you to translate what other people are saying. Teach her to ask people to repeat something if she didn't understand the first time. First show her how to talk to her teacher if she's missing part of the lessons in school, then encourage her to do it herself. She'll need to do these things when she's grown up. It'll be a lot easier if she starts practicing now.

Teach your child about money.

This is a good thing to do for all children, deaf or hearing. But you might need to explain things about money that you wouldn't for a hearing child. That's because your child might miss information from conversations at the dinner table, or in the car. Tell her what different things should cost. Tell her about saving money. When you feel she is old enough, give her a small allowance and let her decide how to spend the money. If she wants a toy that costs more money, have her save her allowance until she has enough to buy it. Help her count and save money as she plans what she is going to buy.

Tell your child it's okay to make mistakes. This makes your child feel safe if she makes a mistake. Most children learn a lot from their mistakes. But they might not want to try again after making one. Encourage your child to try new things, and let her know you're proud of her attempts, no matter what happens.

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