Saturday, 12 March 2011

Childminding for deaf and hearing impaired children

I have written the following article as a guest post on the Baby Sign Language blog.

It is written from the point of view of a parent searching for an inclusive childminder. However, I thought it might be of interest to childminders who are considering how they might offer an inclusive provision for children with hearing disabilities.

Choosing a childminder

Hello! My name is Sarah Neville. I have been working as a registered childminder for the last 17 years (currently graded outstanding by Ofsted)... and in a past life I qualified as an Educational Audiologist. I am delighted to be asked to write a guest post for Baby Sign Language blog.

How do you choose a childminder for your child? It is a hard enough question when your child has normal hearing, but when s/he is born with a hearing impairment or is deaf it can be a much harder question to answer. All parents feel torn when they make the choice to go back to work – they know that financially or to further their career it is the right decision but they also worry.

Parental guilt is normal! Only parents know their child well enough to understand every nuance of their body language and to recognise all their attempts at communication. However, parents can find a childminder who is ideally placed to care for their child... they might just need to visit a few different ones first and see who is out there with vacancies.

Your future childminder must be interested in you and your child. At the initial interview and throughout your time with the childminder s/he should ask you lots of questions about your child’s needs, including how communication with your child is best achieved. S/he should also be happy to access alternative communication methods so that s/he can understand what your child is asking for... including attending courses and learning your child’s sign language.

Some years ago I put together an illustrated book called ‘My favourite things’ for a child who suffered from regular bouts of glue ear. It helped her to ask me for drinks, toys etc and allowed me to ensure her essential care needs were met when she was feeling under the weather with sore ears or not confident enough to speak to me.

Other things to check for in your future childminder’s house include hard surfaces so sound bounces, a calm quiet atmosphere (we know that most children have tantrums, but watch how the childminder deals with them), good lighting so your child can see clearly to develop lip reading skills and lots of outings through the week so your child is socialised with others.

You must feel confident and comfortable with your future childminder and this will be built up through a series of meetings including settling-in sessions for your child. Always ask about settling-in at the interview stage – you should be offered at least one session of a couple of hours so the childminder and your child can get to know each other while you hopefully spend some special time doing something just for you. If you need more sessions – ask for them!

Parents can help childminders to have the best possible relationship with their child... they can share information about their child’s home life... they can pay on time and be prompt... they can let their childminder know when their child has said or done something new... they can keep their childminder updated about medical and other appointments... they can involve their childminder in their child’s life.

If you have any concerns about choosing a childminder which I have not covered, please feel free to contact me via my website.