Social interaction is a critical aspect of a child’s social and emotional development during adolescence, but children with hearing loss have been shown to suffer greatly in this regard. Self-isolation, anxiety, and delayed social skills may occur in deaf or hard of hearing children that do not get the same social experiences as those without hearing loss. Past studies have also shown a clear correlation between impaired hearing and feelings of rejection or neglect from their peers, highlighting the importance of inclusion for children with disabilities.
Team-building activities such as organized sports have given children wonderful character development and social experiences, resulting in over 45 million adolescents playing organized sports. But sports have also historically presented challenges for the hearing loss community due to varying factors, as the Government Accountability Office found that students with disabilities were 56% less likely to participate in sports or afterschool activities as their peers. A lack of resources limiting support staff, social and group sensitivities, and the challenges those with hearing loss face while navigating team norms are all contributors to exclusion in the world of sports. Ignoring these problems will not only hinder social development during adolescence but may also set children up for exclusion in other social settings in the future.
Many local youth sports organizations or school team’s budgets are subsidized or have limited resources available in their budgets, which can limit the amount of support staff accessible to children with disabilities. To make sure children with hearing loss have the same opportunity to participate as their healthy hearing peers, advocating for your child’s needs can ensure they receive the accommodations they need. Some examples include:
Whether you are a coach or an involved parent, trying to foster an inclusive team environment that understands everyone’s abilities and disabilities is critical to giving children with hearing loss the same opportunities to shine.
Organized sports have many well-documented benefits for children, including higher high school and college graduation rates and even reduced drug use. Children with hearing loss deserve the same access to these benefits as all children do. If you or your child are interested in youth sports, speak to a hearing health professional or hearing organization about how you can help your child participate in the world of sports.