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How You Can Help Your Child

Get your child help early. Some things may not work, but others will. Keep trying until you find something that works for your child.

Getting around on his own - special equipment
Children with cerebral palsy can use different equipment to get from place to place. So help your child with a hearing loss to understand and use these things. Some children use walkers to help them walk alone. If the movement problem causes problems walking, a power wheelchair can help children go places on their own. Teaching your child to work the power chair will be very important.

Try to find someone who understands hearing loss and how to communicate with your child to help with this. This person may teach your child about the wheelchair by:

  • Telling him how to use it
  • Showing your child how to control the wheelchair
  • Having your child use the chair by himself

Teaching your child in several different ways is important for children who have cerebral palsy and are also deaf.

Wearing glasses and hearing aids
Eyeglasses and hearing aids can help your child see and hear better. But keeping them on can be tough. That's because children with cerebral palsy sometimes can't control how their arms and legs move. So they can knock off their glasses or hearing aids by accident.

Try these ideas to keep your child's hearing aids or glasses on:

  • Put special tape made for sticking to skin over the hearing aid to keep it on. Look for something called "toupee tape."
  • Keep glasses on with a headband.
  • Attach the hearing aid to the glasses.
  • Make sure your child's earmolds fit well so they don't slip out easily.
  • If your child uses a wheelchair with a headrest, make sure the pillow doesn't push on your child's ears. And make sure the headrest holds the head steady enough so the hearing aid doesn't get knocked out.

Communicating with your child with cerebral palsy and hearing loss
using board to communicate If your child has cerebral palsy and a hearing loss, he may need help that's different from other children with a hearing loss. It might be harder for him to learn how to talk, because both cerebral palsy and hearing loss can make talking hard. It might also be harder for him to learn sign language, because cerebral palsy can make it hard to control how his arms and hands move.

These movement (motor) problems make it harder for your child to express his thoughts. So try to make it easier for your child to communicate:

  • Make up signs or gestures that are easy for your child to do. Watch how your child copies your signs. This will tell you what he can do at that time. Starting with signs that are easy for his hands and arms will help him communicate and feel proud of himself, too. His signing may improve over time.
  • Ask your child's teachers and therapists for ideas about how to help your child communicate with you at home.
  • When your child is very young, watch which way he's looking. Use this as a way to understand what your child wants.
  • Watch where your child points or touches. This may show you what he wants to talk about. Then you will need to fill in the words or signs for him.
  • Sometimes pictures can help. You can make a board with pictures or photographs of some things that your child may want, and teach him to use the board to ask for his bottle, cup, snack, television, etc.

Usually, children can understand others easier than they can tell others what they want. But your child may need extra clues to figure out what's going on:

  • Your child will need some help to know where sound is coming from. This is because moving his body or even turning his head is hard work. And his hearing loss makes it even harder.
  • Your child will need extra time to turn to the person who is talking to him. Slowing down all communication will help a lot. If things are said very fast, your child will miss important information.

Communicating with pictures
rainbow Finding other ways to help your child to communicate is called augmentative communication. Your child needs to have a way to understand what other people are saying. He also needs a way to say things so that other people can understand. If talking and signing are both too hard, ask the audiologist about other ways to communicate:

  • Sometimes children can learn to use pictures to say what they are thinking.
  • Your child could use a special computer that helps him communicate.
  • Make a picture board so that your child can see, touch and feel things that can help him understand the daily schedule. (A picture of a toothbrush could remind him that you brush your teeth and get dressed in the morning.) Start out easy with things that he can see. Then build on what your child learns before talking about things that he cannot see or know.

Most children will need to get information in different ways - through pictures, gestures, sign language, speech, touch, and by doing things for themselves. This is called a "multi-sensory" approach to learning.

Communicating with friends and family
Help other people in your family communicate with your child.

  • Ask your family and friends to make sure your child can see them before they start talking or signing. Sometimes children with cerebral palsy have trouble with their vision, and sometimes look out of the side of their eyes, which makes it harder. Being patient helps a lot because even turning and looking is hard work for some children.
  • Explain to your family and friends that your child needs them to talk and sign slowly and clearly.
  • Ask people to use more expression and gesture to keep your child's attention and interest.
  • Ask them to be patient, and wait for your child to respond. Sometimes it is hard to understand the answer, so you may need to translate for others at first.

Learn more about cerebral palsy:

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National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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