As I pondered this article, I began to consider the experiences of families of children with hearing loss. Throughout my career, I've been a witness to various situations that illustrate both the joys and challenges of raising a child with hearing loss. One common and often repeated question that I've gotten from parents is, "how many parents are going through what we're dealing with?" When I hear this question, I interpret the parents' question to actually be a statement: "We feel that we're the only family dealing with childhood hearing loss, and we would like to talk to someone else who has been through this!"
With any challenging situation, individuals may feel a sense of social isolation. For some parents, their family may be the only one in their neighborhood, church, synagogue, or social network who is experiencing childhood hearing loss. Their sense of isolation can grow, and they may feel the world is conspiring against them at every turn. Building strong social connections with other families who are raising children with hearing loss can be quite positive and powerful. In fact, there is a movement among federal and state programs to increase family-to-family support. Parents of children with hearing loss no longer need to feel isolated.
There are now several outlets available that will put families in touch with other families in their community or state. Families should pursue these contacts through their service providers who already may have a list of other families who are willing to be resources. Additionally, there are national organizations such as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (www.agbell.org) and Hands & Voices (www.handsandvoices.org) that provide significant resources to parents. Furthermore, both organizations have chapters in most states that sponsor local conferences and social events with the specific goal of connecting families.
Families that have encountered childhood hearing loss should know there are others who are dealing with the same issues. Social networking with those who have a shared experience can be uplifting and lessen feelings of being alone. Parents of children with hearing loss often want to connect with other families who have had the same experiences. As research is now showing, these strong social connections can have lasting positive effects, often leading to strong bonds between individuals. Parents can interact with other parents, and children with hearing loss can develop positive relationships with peers who may share a similar hearing loss or use the same hearing technology. In the end, everyone wins when these family-to-family connections are made and cultivated.