Early Intervention programs for deaf and hard of hearing children are typically offered for ages 0-3 in the U.S. Over the last two years, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, early Intervention caseloads have been decreasing. This prompts researchers to ask the question: Are parents of deaf children not following up with early intervention hearing care? Why is Early Intervention so important?
A diagnosis of hearing loss for a child can be overwhelming to a new parent. In the last two years amidst a pandemic, it’s been more overwhelming. On top of the diagnosis, parents have to take many things into consideration, including:
These decisions are not always easy. It can make it easy to overlook Early Intervention services provided by your state. The offerings and providers vary by state and not all programs are created equal.
I spoke to five Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TODHH) in different states recently who confirmed that their caseload for children ages 0-3 is down. One TODHH noted that their caseload is down 65 percent. I wondered what was happening.
The audiologists I spoke to saw no difference in the number of referrals following hospital screening. Families are following up. Most families are following up on their Early Intervention intake.
The gap appears to be after the intake. Possible reasons include:
Early Intervention does require work and time on both the parent and the provider’s side. It means extra appointments and conversations, which can seem daunting. But if Early Intervention is offered by your state, you should be taking advantage of it.
“If Early Intervention is offered by your state, you should be taking advantage of it.”
The good news is that DHH programs are starting to pick back up. Of the five TODHHs I spoke with, four reported an increase in case numbers this year and getting back to normal.
If you are feeling uncertain about Early Intervention services, here are some benefits:
On a personal note, as someone who is deaf/hard of hearing, I originally fell into the category of believing I did not need Early Intervention services. While I do have a lifetime of experience being deaf/hard of hearing, I had no experience raising deaf/hard of hearing children. It challenged my perception of language, behavior, and learning. We’re all better off for it. I feel so incredibly lucky for the team my girls had between the ages 0-3.
Read more: What to do early on for your deaf baby