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What does social-emotional health mean? The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004, puts it simply as, “The core features of emotional development include the ability to identify and understand one’s own feelings, to accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others, to manage strong emotions and their expression in a constructive manner, to regulate one’s own behavior, to develop empathy for others, and to establish and sustain relationships.” This content-packed sentence highlights the great affect social-emotional health has on our relationships and overall quality of life.

Families are the first and most important influence on a child’s social-emotional development. For the most part families naturally fulfill this responsibility by simply being responsive to their child’s needs and providing a safe environment to grow and learn. As children grow older, their social-emotional development continues through their experiences and interactions with extended family, teachers, sports, activities, peers, friends, community leaders, media personalities, and many other life experiences. As parents it is important to encourage our children to expand their circle of influence and to find more ways to support their social-emotional growth. The goal is to raise happy children who become positive contributing members of our society.

How is social-emotional health different for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (dhh)? It is NOT different for children who are dhh and families are still the number one influence on their social-emotional development. What is different for a child who is dhh is their access to language. Language access for communication, both expressive and receptive, is key critical to building strong social-emotional skills and reliant on a child’s ability to hear or “listening bubble”.

“Children typically learn social skills with little effort starting at a young age. These skills are shaped by children watching others and having other people react to their behavior. How we learn social skills is based on very subtle cues, such as facial expression, body posture and quiet auditory cues. Because of their smaller “listening bubbles” children who are dhh do not pick up language and the subtle aspects of interactions going on around them as fully as their peers with typical hearing,”

What can families do to better support the social-emotional development of their child who is dhh? Families can take a deliberate approach and contact outside resources. A few ideas to start developing your child’s social-emotional skills:

  • Learn to communicate with your child who is dhh. Figure out what works best for your child and your family and follow through. Commit to a communication plan, language, or modality, give it time and your communication skills will develop and in the process your child’s skills will too. If you find at some point your communication plan is not the right fit for your child, don’t be afraid to commit to a new plan. Do not give up; you will not regret figuring out the best way to communicate with your child.
  • Contact your local school district to find out more about their special education program. They can provide you with resources and information to help guide education decisions. They will evaluate your child’s needs and together with your family they will develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individual Education Plan (IEP). Ask questions, listen, observe, and get involved in your child’s education.
  • Explore your child’s options to amplify the sound they have access to. Increase the size of their “listening bubble”.

H Find other families who share your unique experience of raising a child who is dhh. Build a community of people who support your family and add to your child’s community of safe people to socialize with.

H Listen to adult role models who are also dhh willing to share their experiences and insight with your family.

In addition to the above list of deliberate ways families can help children who are dhh with social-emotional development, there are other ways families can help their child’s inter-personal communication skills. These skills can make a lasting positive impact in their life.

List of eight activities:

  1. Take turns telling short stories to each other.
  2. Create scenarios with your child in which manners and courtesy should be used and have your child practice being courteous and polite.
  3. Practice decision-making scenarios and strategies.
  4. Take turns with your child giving each other instructions to complete a task.
  5. Create scenarios in which your child has to use her words to communicate her wants and needs.
  6. Encourage your child to share her belongings with others and practice asking others for permission to use their belongings.
  7. Practice teasing scenarios with your child.
  8. H Play board games, card games, or other types of games with your child.

List taken from online, 8 Fun Activities to Practice Social Skills with Your Child, posted May 25, 2016, by Rachel Wise,

There are endless ways a family can support their child’s social-emotional development. As parents, you know your child best and can explore any number of ideas on your own. Just know that your family’s expression of love and affection has been and always will be the universal way to best communicate with each other and the strongest foundation on which to build your child’s social-emotional skills.

Lifetrack’s: Deaf Mentor Family Program and DHH Role Model Program Lifetrack’s Deaf & Hard of Hearing Outreach Services include our MNH&V, along with offering two other programs specific to families with a child who is dhh; Deaf Mentor Family Program (DMFP) and DHH Role Model Program (DHHRMP). These programs offer many benefits to families who have a child who is dhh and are recognized as playing a critical role in the Minnesota Early Hearing Detection and Intervention System. The DMFP is focused on facilitating early language through American Sign Language (ASL) instruction and sharing valuable insight about the social emotional development of children who are dhh. The program brings together the love of family, ASL, and the wealth of knowledge from a mentor who is dhh to provide a rich language environment for the child.

For more information about finding a Deaf Mentor for your family and the DMFP go to http://www.lifetrack-mn. org/deaf-mentor-family-program

The DHHRMP understands children who are dhh benefit from a positive relationship with a trusted adult who is also dhh. Role Models who have experienced the challenges of being dhh firsthand can help children who are dhh practice important self-advocacy skills and help develop their sense of identity. Families sense optimism and hope by seeing a connection between their child who is dhh to a successful Role Model. The Role Model will serve as a guide to the diversity of language and useful knowledge of technology options.

For more information about finding a Role Model for your family and the DHHRMP go to Meet Lifetrack’s DHH Role Model — Jessica Stern J


Meet Lifetrack’s DHH Role Model — Jessica Stern

Jessica Stern is a role model for Lifetrack DHH Role Model Program. Jessica grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota. Jessica became profoundly hard of hearing as a baby during a harrowing medical experience, which almost cost her her life. After several offices and emergency room visits local doctors and emergency room staff could not diagnose Jessica’s illness. But with her mother’s persistence and the help of one compassionate doctor, Dr. Parnell, they were finally sent directly to the hospital in Rochester. Jessica was one of the first infants to be diagnosed with Meningitis during the Meningitis outbreak in the 1980’s. It wasn’t until after her first birthday that her babysitter discovered Jessica could not hear due to that illness. Growing up Jessica’s parents, two sisters and various foster siblings worked tirelessly on language skills with her. Her mother would hold up an apple and say, “Jessi, say ‘apple’ (insert babble), good job!” This went on for hours upon hours; her baby sister learned to speak much earlier than normal because of all the practice. Working on language skills was not easy and it took much patience for her and her family, but she eventually started talking. Jessica had success with hearing aids growing up and her family took sign language classes to give her another tool to use then and in the future. In regard to being a role model, Jessica tells a story about an encounter she had with a woman. Apparently, the woman had met Jessica years earlier at an event in Mankato. “Her son was only 6 weeks old and she had found out that he was deaf. She shared some moving words about meeting Jessica which had impacted the way she raised him because she thought I had turned out pretty great,” said Jessica, adding, “My mom was actually there when this woman shared this information and she said, ‘That’s all I wanted to see when she was a baby, someone who turned out okay at the end of all this.’” This exchange with her mother and the woman was the driving factor for Jessica’s desire to be a role model. Jessica’s advice for parents would be to toss any expectations or bars that someone else has laid down for your child who is dhh. “No one has the right to limit what you and your family can become and no one can see the future,” she said. “Although it is hard to see the end result now, the future you is very wise, happy, and telling you to just take on each day with a smile.” Jessica was active in college life by joining a sorority and was a member of several executive boards for the campus. She used accommodations for classes as needed, mostly interpreters or note takers. She graduated from the mortuary program within the medical school at the University of Minnesota and is now a licensed funeral director. Jessica lives with her husband and they call the Twin Cities area their home.

Read Jessica’s entire biography and other role model biographies at Lifetrack http://