Raising Deaf Kids logo
Raising Deaf Kids: a world of information about children with hearing loss

Search RaisingDeafKids.org


Print this section with Adobe Acrobat.

How You Can Help Your Child

Get help from experts.
Taking the first step and admitting that your child may need help is sometimes the hardest part of all. After you find out that your child is deaf, and you begin to accept that, adding another problem such as autism may feel like just too much. Many parents are afraid of what the word 'autism' will mean. Sometimes they want to wait before dealing with another label. Or, they just hope it will get better on its own.

Find the right help EARLY. It will make a big difference in how your child grows and learns. He may need lots of help, even from people both in your home and in their offices and centers.

Find a professional who knows about deafness.
Tell them about your worries and the troubles your child has. Some of the people who work with children with autism are: professional

  • teachers
  • early intervention specialists
  • occupational therapists
  • physical therapists
  • speech and language therapists
  • play therapists
  • behavior specialists
  • developmental pediatricians or child psychiatrists. These doctors are interested in how children develop. They can get to know your child over time and adjust treatment as he grows.

Whew — that's a lot of people! But they all can help in different ways.

Different ways of teaching your child
There are also different approaches to teaching children with autism. Some doctors prefer an approach that helps your child to communicate with you through play. Others recommend that you focus on teaching your child different behaviors. Some people mix different approaches together. All ways take a lot of time and hard work.

There are many ways to teach your child about the world. There are many ways to teach your child how to control himself. And there are many ways to help you learn about how your child's mind works.

Your doctor may also suggest giving your child medicine to help him pay attention or learn better. Sometimes medicine will help with making your child less nervous and improving the behaviors that way.

How you can help your child grow
Having a deaf children with autism can seem like a huge challenge. You may have to help your child more to learn and be independent than other children. But children with autism can improve in many ways. Some people with autism do grow up and marry, have children, and work independently. They just need lots of their parents' help for a while.

Whatever kind of autism your child has, he can get help. Your child needs help that pushes him to learn about his own feelings and the feelings of others. He may also need special help to remember things that he learns in school. Give your child encouragement, and show him that you believe in him.

How you can help your deaf child communicate
Usually, language develops without much work. But for deaf children with autism, sometimes getting words and ideas out is very hard. Parents need to use everything they can, including making faces, gesturing, smiling a lot, and jumping around the room to get their children to notice them and respond.

Using sign language
If your child has trouble looking at people, sign language can still be useful. Children with autism use their peripheral or side vision to see what people are saying. The best is when you can get your child to focus and watch what you are signing. This is something that is best learned early in life, and much harder when the habit of not looking is well established.

Some people believe that hearing aids or cochlear implants are even more important for children with autism, so that they can hear when they are not looking. Others disagree.

Teaching your child to tell you what he wants
Sometimes children with autism have a lot of trouble telling people what they want or need, and then act up because they are frustrated. Pictures can be used to help these children develop language. This is called Picture Exchange Communication Systems or PECS.

Here is an example of how to help your child ask YOU for what he wants:

  1. Pick 1 of your child's favorite foods and make sure that he sees you. Sit down and eat the food in front of him. Take your time and don't offer any - wait for him to come to you.
  2. Encourage him to tell you in some way that he wants the food. In the beginning, this may be eye contact. It is okay to accept simple tries at first - like eye contact, pulling your hand, reaching, etc.
  3. As your child becomes more used to asking for things, you can show and teach better ways of asking for things, like - saying or signing, "please" or the name of the object, or pointing to it.

Do the same as above with a favorite toy, pet or other things.

Teach your child to communicate that he DOES NOT want or like something:

  • Hold something that your child does not like out to him. If he walks away, follow him around with it. Encourage him to tell you that he does not want it (by pushing your hand away, saying or signing, "no").
  • Start by accepting simple answers like looking away, turning away, or walking away. But soon, you will expect more, so show your child how to say or sign, "No!" or "I don't want it!"
  • Ask someone to stand behind your child and help your child sign these things if he can't do it alone. This person can put move your child's hands or body the way they need to go.
  • This is the beginning and it teaches your child that you expect communication before he will get what he wants, or get away from what he wants to avoid.

Help your child by putting play and learning together
house Children with autism love playing and learning. They learn best when they love the person who is working with them!

Teaching a child with autism works best when parents and/or therapists thinks about what the child can do, and likes to do. Here's an example:

  • If your child likes playing with cars, play with him using cars and trucks.
  • Teach your child words about cars - car, truck, wheels, fast, go, race.
  • Have a race, and say out loud what's happening in the race. "Eric's car is turning the corner, and Mommy's car is catching up!"
  • Find something interesting to draw your child out. This can help him to pay attention and play with you. From this, the child will start to feel a bond with you. While you are playing, you can teach your child to ask for help.
  • Find a wind up toy and show your child what it does. Do this 1 or 2 times or until your child shows interest. This time let the toy stop or turn it off and wait. When your child looks at you, act dumb. Shrug your shoulders, then ask, "What happened?"
  • Wait for him to show you that he wants you to start the toy again.
  • Begin with easy tries like pointing and looking at you and the toy.
  • Next, expect more and better ways to ask for help, like signing a word like "more" or "help".

Here are a few other ideas to teach your child to ask for help:

  • Open a jar of bubbles, blow the bubbles, and then close the lid tightly. Now give the closed jar to your child. Wait for your child to communicate with you before you open the jar or blow more bubbles.
  • Blow up a balloon. Let the air go out, then give it to your child. Make your child tell you something before you inflate it again.
  • Put a favorite toy or food in a clear plastic jar that your child cannot open. Put it in front of them and tempt them to communicate with you.

Learn more about autism

  • Read the book, "The Child with Special Needs, Encouraging Intellectual and Emotional Growth," by Doctors Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder. This book tells you how to understand what your child's special needs are.
  • Check out The Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders's autism guide for parents.

About Us I Site Map I Search I Feedback I Privacy


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
© 2001-2004, Deafness and Family Communication Center or its affiliates