With newborn hearing screening, early identification, and improvements in technology, the great majority of children with hearing loss can successfully use listening and spoken language and are educated in the mainstream. Since more than 95% of children with hearing loss are born into families with normal hearing, they may be the only person with hearing loss they know. For some children this is fine, but others may feel alone. Socialization may be an issue, especially if language is delayed, since socialization depends on language.
Many kids who go to camp love it. Kids who love soccer want to go to soccer camp. Kids who love dance want to go to dance camp. They want to be with kids who have the same interests. Kids with hearing loss may be very happy to spend part of the summer in soccer camp, but they may also love spending part of the summer with other kids with hearing loss who can understand and share their concerns.
Camp programs – one week, two weeks, or even a weekend — are a good way to help kids with hearing loss meet one another and feel less alone. If you google “Camps for deaf kids” you will find a large variety of possibilities. Camps are located in many states; some are family camps and some are just for kids. Most describe themselves as signing camps, but some list themselves as having an oral option. Some say they use ASL (American Sign Language) and some say they offer SEE (signing exact English.)
Camp programs can be a great experience for children with hearing loss who feel alone much of the time at school. It is, however, important to find the right camp – just as it is if you are looking for camp for any child. For children who sign, a camp where there are no signers will be a problem. For children who are oral, a camp where everyone signs can be a disappointment since it will leave the child alone again. For some kids, camps that offer multiple modes of communication may be best since it will expose them all to new things.
AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing offers a program called LOFT in which kids with hearing loss meet for a few days at the beginning of the summer. The program is designed for high school students who use oral communication. Its goals are to teach leadership skills, advocacy, improve communication and build self-confidence. The leaders are all deaf adults.
All the camp programs give children the opportunity to meet other kids with hearing loss, and that is always a plus. Family camps offer parents the additional opportunity to meet with other parents. That is also a plus since everyone benefits by support.
If going to camp is not a possibility for a particular child, it is a good idea to look for other opportunities for her or him to meet others with hearing loss – both children and adults. Audiologists and therapists can arrange a picnic or pool party or some other group activities which will give families a chance to meet. It always helps to have new friends.