Finding childcare for my deaf child
Before Harry was born I had no doubt in my mind that I would send him to daycare at some point in his preschool years. In the beginning, we had a family friend help take care of him, but I am a real advocate for nursery and the social environment it provides for a thriving toddler.
However, when Harry was diagnosed with hearing loss I suddenly really struggled with the thought of someone else taking care of him. I also feared his hearing loss would single him out. Would he be scared? Would be be able to hear properly in a noisy environment with his cochlear implants? Would the staff be trustworthy with all his equipment?
These questions and more buzzed around my head like an aggressive bee, and the more I thought about it the more I started to wonder whether I would even be able to put Harry in childcare at all.
I spoke to family and friends who provided me with so much valuable advice, and I heard stories of shy toddlers suddenly changing almost overnight into babbling happy little ones, all because of the benefits of nursery. Of course, these friends’ children did not having a hearing loss like Harry, but some of them were very introvert and less confident than my son.
I decided to bite the bullet and go on a “nursery tour” around our home town, and I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the staff I met weren’t fazed in the slightest about having a hard of hearing child in their care. They were actually intrigued and excited to learn about his cochlear implant equipment. I also found that the majority of nursery teachers we met basic sign language skills, and a lot of the preschoolers had also learned it… perfect!
Throughout the tour, I was also recommended hiring a childminder – sort of a private day care in someone’s home, with fewer children than a nursery. I had never thought about using a childminder before, but I also hadn’t realized that a childminder follows a curriculum just like a nursery does. I began to think that actually it might be better for Harry to be around a small handful of children and receive one-on-one care that he may need.
We met Harry’s potential childminder and fell in love immediately. I knew from the second she opened the door that my Harry would fit like a glove into her lovely, homely setting. Now, he goes to her three times a week and is usually with 2 or 3 other children at a time, who have now become his very best friends! She loves Harry like he’s her own and what I like most about him being there is that they spend a lot of time playing and learning outdoors, even in the cold and rain! She is so understanding about his hearing loss and how important it is to keep his equipment safe and in working order. Our Teacher of the Deaf and key worker also visit Harry at his childminders house to give her advice and to see how he is connecting with her.
Although I am more than happy with how Harry is getting on at his childminders, I still plan to send him to nursery or preschool at some point before he starts “big school,” as I think it’s important for him to be put into a noisier, busier setting and prepare him for what it will be like when he eventually goes to elementary school.
There are so many daycare options available to parents of toddlers with hearing loss. If you are thinking of going back to work and putting your hard of hearing son or daughter into childcare, it can be a daunting, but I can honestly say Harry’s speech and listening skills have come on leaps and bounds since he joined his childminder and new friends.
The most important thing is finding what’s right for your family to find the right place. When you know, you know!