Adoption is a big part of American culture. While there are always children to adopt, Americans have been doing well for the cause. In 2016, nearly 59,000 children were adopted, domestically and internationally. A surprisingly large percentage of these children are classified as special needs. And a good portion of that is children who are Deaf, HoH (hard of hearing) or hearing impaired.
Given this vast and unique population of children, equipping hearing professionals with specialized knowledge about the perspectives and sensitivities adoptive families have is entirely appropriate. Yet, there has not been many studies that focus on this segment of the population as it relates to hearing loss.
Recently, a survey of 49 mothers by Columbia University yielded new and exciting insight into the perspectives of these unique families.
Reasons For Adopting Children With Hearing Loss
Of all the families surveyed, three primary motivators became evident, for adopting children with hearing loss. One group had prior experience with individuals either in their family or network of friends who live with hearing loss. A second group felt that adoption was a humanitarian or religious obligation, and they were willing to adopt a child with special needs, to include hearing loss. A third group was not aware at the time of adoption that their child had hearing loss. The hearing loss revealed itself later.
Accuracy Of Hearing Loss Diagnosis
Many of the participants communicated that the information they initially received about their child’s diagnosis was at least partially incorrect. Children who were adopted internationally did not receive proper hearing health care and rehabilitative services on the whole. Children who were adopted domestically had much better access to services, but they were often inconsistent given the unpredictability of foster care placement.
Perspectives of those with experience around hearing loss helped during adoption, but also changed the original perceptions they had. They found that having a child with hearing loss was an entirely different experience than working around hearing loss in a professional capacity. Other challenges were found when dealing with delayed second language acquisition, delayed exposure to any language at all, and missing the window of home based services due to age.
Insensitivity In Practice
One of the most prominent observations made by participants in the study was that professionals did and other community members did not treat the families with adopted children with the appropriate kind of sensitivity to their situation. As their situation is incredibly unique, and often the adjustment to a new child with a slew of special needs can be somewhat arduous, training professionals to be aware of this fact is especially important.
Currently, there is little training provided to professionals in the healthcare industry regarding the unique situations of families with adopted children who have more than one particular need. However, with enough exposure, these unique families can begin to advocate their needs more, resulting in improved sensitivity during continued services in the future. For more information on adoption and hearing healthcare services, please contact a hearing health professional today.