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At the time of diagnosis, it is not uncommon for parents of hearing- impaired children to experience an array of emotions. David Luterman has summarized the grief process, describing common emotions felt by parents as they begin to accept their child's hearing loss. Luterman suggests that these emotions typically occur in stages. The following was adapted from D. Luterman (1987). Deafness in the family. Little, Brown, and Company, Inc.

It is important to remember that these stages may vary in duration and severity from parent to parent. Luterman also states that this model should not be viewed as such a simplistic and orderly process. He contends that "the stages of grief are not mutually exclusive and there are no clear demarcations between one stage and another" (p. 41).

When there are several children in the family, it is important to provide the siblings experiences that are not related to the child with the special needs. This enables the child to develop as an individual independent from the child with hearing loss. F. K. Grossman found that there are both positive and negative aspects of having a sibling with special needs. The following was adapted from F. K. Grossman (1972). Brothers and sisters of retarded children. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press)

Negative consequences found:

  1. Shame about the child with special needs, then guilt about the shame.
  2. Guilt about being in good health.
  3. Guilt about having negative feelings towards the special needs sibling.
  4. A feeling of neglect by their parents.
  5. A feeling of having lost their own childhood because they had to assume responsibilities at an early age.

Positive consequences found:

  1. A greater understanding of people in general and people with handicaps in particular.
  2. More compassion.
  3. More appreciation of their good health.
  4. More sensitivity to prejudice.
  5. A sense that the experience had drawn the family together.

Although reactions to a sibling with hearing impairment may vary from child to child, parents have a strong influence on how this experience is perceived. If parents openly accept their child with hearing loss, other children in the family are more inclined to share the same feelings.

Genetic Counseling
Since genetic inheritance is responsible for a great number of children with profound, congenital hearing loss, parents may wish to seek genetic counseling during the diagnostic period.

Click HERE for more information regarding genetic evaluation and counseling for hearing loss.

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