How can I help my child?

Comforting families through the secondary stages of shock, grief, and helplessness.


        Ferris, Caren (1980). A hug just isnít enough. Washington D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

        Ogden, Paul W. (1996). The silent garden: Raising your deaf child. Washington D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

        McGill, Patricia Smith. You are not alone! [Online] Available:

        Spink, Diane (1976). Crisis intervention for parents of the deaf child. Health and Social Work, 1 (4), 141-159.

        Swarbrick, Jody (1999). Parenting special needs: Acceptance. [Online]. Available:

Synthesis of Information:

Grieving is an important part of understanding the situation as it helps families accept the things that can't be changed (Swarbrick, 1998). During the secondary emotional stages, parents feel shock, grief, and helplessness. These are also referred to as the grieving process.

Shock occurs as parents face the reality of deafness. Parents believe that their child is d/hh, but they are struggling to face the reality of it.

As reality begins to hit, the dreams of the 'perfect child' are crushed, leaving parents in a grieving state. Psychologists have determined that this grieving process is very similar to the grief experienced after death. Often, however, parents notice what differences there are between their child and other children long before the child does.

The feeling of helplessness is the result of parents feeling lost in the seemingly unending piles of information and powerless to change the fact that their child is d/hh (Spink, 1976 and McGill, 1999). Before the diagnosis, parents felt competent to handle all of life's situations, but now they have stumbled upon something they can't fix. In addition, it is difficult for parents to rely on the judgments and opinions of others with who they hardly know (McGill, 1999).

As parents move toward acceptance of the hearing loss, they often feel overwhelmed by all the information, differences between their child and hearing children, and their lack of knowledge about deafness. They feel sorry for their child as they watch other children do things that they think their child in unable to do (Ferris, 1980). Parents also view deafness as a direct challenge to their ability to keep their child safe from harm (Ogden, 1996). As their competency as a parent is challenged, they realize that they need to make long term decisions for their child.



It is difficult for professionals, who haven't been parents to a d/hh child, to understand this grieving process. Something we can relate to is death. If we realize that parents often view deafness as a "death of a 'normal' child", we can better empathize with them during the grieving period. This correlation can help others:


        Children with a hearing loss: "For families with d/hh children." (1999) [Online] Available

        Family village home: A global village of disability related resources (1999). Deaf/Hard of hearing. [Online] Available

        NICD, National Information Center on Deafness (1999). Free handouts [Online] Available

        Vernon, M and Wallrabenstein, J.M. (1984). Diagnosis of deafness. Journal of Communication Disorders, 17 (1), 1-8.

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