Vicki and I were often invited to talk to other parents of deaf and hard of hearing children at conferences hosted by national and international organizations such as the American Society for Deaf Children, Alexander Graham Bell Association (Section for Parents of Deaf Children), NAD, Association of Late Deafened Adults, Hearing Loss Association of America, International Congress on Education of the Deaf, WFD, Cal-Ed, and IMPACT. Although we both are profoundly deaf, it did not mean that we were experts. We shared tips based on personal experiences with our immediate and extended families.
We encouraged parents and educators of deaf children to meet and interact with a diverse group of deaf and hard of hearing people. We cautioned them not to generalize or stereotype what a deaf person or a hard of hearing person should be like or do. We also stressed there were no simple rules to follow when parenting deaf and hard of hearing children, just like there were no simple rules for hearing children.
One of the several pieces of advice we gave to future teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students was that teachers should work with parents to treat their children as individuals rather than expect them to be like others. Parents should always be consistent in involving their children in everyday conversations at home and in the community. Additionally, teachers should provide tips and ideas to help parents find opportunities for their children to be involved in enrichment activities with both hearing and deaf peers in the neighborhood, at the YMCA, in religious and sports activities, during arts and crafts, and so on. Finally, we emphasized there should be no limit to introducing a deaf or hard of hearing child to different kinds of experiences.
Other advice involved encouraging parents to invite deaf and hard of hearing adults to their homes, and arrange to meet with these adults at deaf clubs, their workplaces, or at school. We also stressed that deaf and hard of hearing children should be encouraged to learn more about themselves, know their abilities, and reach their maximum potential, and it could be accomplished with meetings with deaf and hard of hearing role models.
Another suggestion was for parents to be engaged in activities involving them and teachers (e.g., PTAs) so they could network with other parents of deaf and hard of hearing children, exchange information, and share experiences.