For parents of young children dealing with hearing loss, it’s a long road, but it’s not without it’s rewards by any means. It’s not unusual for children who have unilateral or complete hearing loss to be developmentally behind other children their age. It is possible though to give your child a jumpstart through their Theory of Mind development.
While there are many areas where research will need to be done as well as new theories learned and implemented, your audiologist should be able to offer many ideas as well as resources to explore.
One area is Theory of Mind (ToM) development that every child goes through in their own way.
Engaging the brain of a child who cannot hear you well offers its own set of struggles, but ToM will help you to interact with your child. It’s designed to help them learn how to become aware of other people’s feelings, what they may be thinking, or why they might act they way they do. It’s closely tied to different actions or thoughts depending on an individual’s particular mental state at the time.
One area that researchers feel development is particularly important is false belief. This typically develops in children around the ages of 4 to 5 years old. The idea behind it is that when a child develops ToM, they will have an understanding that others might have different beliefs than they do.
According to Elizabeth Walker, PhD and her colleagues at Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss (OCHL), many children who live with hearing loss have a significantly delayed development of ToM.
There are several ways that can help a child with hearing loss with their Theory of Mind development. Many of these are used in therapy to help engage the child as well as teach the parent how to continue the practice at home. Working in tandem with your child’s specialist is a great way to help your child advance at a more normal pace.
- Keep your child’s hearing device on a minimum of 10 hours each day
- Speak your thoughts out loud to your child and encourage your other children to do so as well
- Stay close to your infant when singing, talking, or imitating their actions
- Share conversation using verbs that will enhance their mental state such as believe, feel, forget, guess, hate, hope, imagine, like, love, remember, think or wish
- Share in imaginary play
- Use mental state verbs
- Read aloud books that express beliefs, desires, or feelings such as Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Ask interactive questions about these books that draw their attention to how the characters might be feeling and how they think the story will go.
- Engage their thoughts and beliefs by asking questions such as “How did you feel about your first day at daycare?” or “How would you do this?”
Many of these ideas may be shared with you by your child’s audiologist in order to help you learn to advance your youngsters development. People continue to learn things their entire life, but it’s doubly important to help a hearing-impaired child with the skills to learn as well as express their feelings and beliefs. These skills will help them in the future to interpret the feelings and beliefs of those around them.
Children are like little sponges, and learning is easiest at a young age when they are impressionable. Learning about perspectives and empathy can help your child grow into a well-rounded adult, capable of adapting to changing situations and offering comfort and understanding to others. ToM also teaches communication skills and leads into decision-making capabilities which are needed at any age.
The younger the child is when they begin learning these formative skills, the more firmly they will grasp it throughout their life. If these concepts are new to you, talk to your audiologist soon about helping to advance your child’s Theory of Mind skills. It will help them learn valuable tools that they will use throughout their life.