Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stress and the hard of hearing child

The AG Bell session titled, I Can't, I Won't, I Don't Want To, peaked my interest.  It's tough to distinguish whether the type of childhood anxiety we experience here at home is from hearing loss or perhaps just the manifestation of my DNA.  I was a high stress kid.  Julia has moments.  Either way, the stress is there.

I detect stress in her on days when she's been playing with her peers without me.  I try not to seem overly self-important here, but I do mom things that help her a great deal.  I use those deep knee bends to get to her level and speak at a rate that is easy to understand.  I give her plenty of time to talk.  I listen carefully to what she says.  I worry that I've created an alternate reality where communication is different than it will be during those full days of kindergarten.

I worry because I can tell when she's spent a whole day with kids.  Her emotions are on a hair trigger.  She seems more tired.  She's more apt to cry at a transition time or jump to a conclusion that leads to a meltdown.  She has stress.

So I was tuned in to this subject in Orlando.  I was hopeful that there would be answers.  As with so many parenting things, there are no absolutes.

The workshop pointed out that the difference between detection and understanding.  We may think our child is doing well because they detect a conversation.  They may not be fully understanding the dialog.  For this we are to give them "communication repair strategies".  An example would be to have the child indicate, "I don't understand" or to have them ask for clarification.

Two months after taking in this information, I've yet to put any "communication repair strategies" into practice.  I sometimes ask, "did you understand?  did you hear?"  I'm at a loss as to transferring this to a self-advocacy goal.  I don't know how to make her ask for clarification.

The presenters also suggested "listening breaks".  They mentioned some kids that like to take their amplification off for a few hours after school.  They said a child might benefit from quiet time in a small space where they can just relax.

The best I've done is to incorporate Julia's favorite play, our one on one time with Barbie dolls, into most days.  She has no interest in removing her hearing aids.  She has no interest in ever being alone.  She never wants to be quiet herself and would always engage me in conversation.  I do find that a good hour of playing with her and her dolls does relax her.  So we just have weird listening breaks.

Finally, they discussed previewing and preteaching as stress reducing tools.  I've been working on this in different situations.  We talk through who is going to be at an event and what we'll do.  I've also tried to give her some coping strategies for when she feels angry or sad.  We talk about the appropriate responses.

All of these tactics are trial and error endeavors for each child.  I've already crossed those completely quiet listening breaks off of my list.  I'm still not finding a substantial improvement with the other stuff. 

I'm left to wonder if I'm capable of teaching someone to manage stress.  I can barely handle my own.  Do you have any suggestions for conquering kid stress?

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