Maybe you knew about your child’s hearing loss long before learning about Autism Spectrum Disorder, or possibly the other way around.
Your journey and your child’s journey has likely been complicated by the lack of support for this dual challenge.
We want to make connecting with reliable information and with a community of people easier for parents through this website. Your suggestions are always welcome. As parents, we don’t know to ask about what we don’t yet know, right? Yet, within a community of learners, there can be so much wisdom.
Deaf + Autism Day at Happy Dog Ranch wrapped up for this year. Our next date is October 1, 2021. Volunteers and sponsors are invited to participate in this day of fun and learning for families.
See a video about Deaf + Autism day here (captioned and interpreted in ASL).
Fast Facts: Deafness and Autism:
On average, a child who is deaf will be diagnosed with autism later in life than a hearing child with autism. In one study, deaf children were diagnosed an average of 1 year later: deaf-autistic group: 4.1 years old; hearing-autistic group, 3.1 years old (Mandell, Novak, & Zubritsky, 2005).
Twice as many children with hearing loss have autism than those who are hearing. (1 deaf child in 76 was receiving services for both a hearing loss and autism, about twice what is currently believed to be the national prevalence rate, which is 1 in 150 children in the general population have autism in the 2006-7 Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth, Gallaudet Research Institute.
Do you suspect your child with hearing loss may have autism?
While each child is unique, there are some common characteristics among deaf and hard of hearing children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD.) The earlier ASD is identified and strategies put into place for language learning, the better.
Does your child have trouble watching others as they talk or sign?
Does your child have difficulty engaging in shared attention? Typically, children will visually track objects in a room or look in the same direction that a parent or caregiver does. Children who are deaf do this often. A child who is deaf and has autism may not.
Does your child show an intense interest in a particular activity or object?
Does he or she shy away or avoid playing with others directly? Does she or he seem more drawn to things than people?
Does he or she seem to have trouble playing games that involve imagination?
Does your child get upset when a routine is changed?
Does your child repeat actions or sounds in a nonmeaningful way?
Does your child have difficulty imitating facial expressions or actions of others (smiling, sticking out the tongue, clapping, signing)?
Does your child have unusual reactions to the environment that cannot be attributed to hearing loss, for example, flashing lights, smells, and textures, refusal of hearing aids because of sensory sensitivity?
Does your child’s development lag behind peers? Sign skills may develop slowly even in an inclusive signing environment.
Has difficulty understanding sign language or verbal language unless it is simplified.
Does your child seem to resist being held or cuddled? (This can be especially tough to see that a child may express love differently.)
(Adapted from Szymanski, Christen. Brice, Patrick. When Autism and Deafness Coexist in Children, What We Know Now.)
These are red flags that might help you consider seeking more evaluation from professionals. It is important to seek out those who are familiar with both autism, deafness and how your child communicates. With knowledgeable early intervention and ongoing support, a child can learn to interact and communicate more effectively with others.
Autism + Deafness Resources: Colorado and Beyond
Thank you to Dr. Debbie Mood, Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Child Development Unit, JFK Partners, and University of Colorado Hospital Otolaryngology Clinic, Jessica Dallman, Natural Wisdom Counseling (now in Wisconsin) and the families who have assisted us with these links. Also, see the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind‘s website.
Colorado Autism Waiver:
More about the Colorado Autism Waiver (click here): This waiver supports home intervention through ABA methods for Colorado families with children under age 8. Hurry to apply as there is a waiting list.
The Autism Treatment Network (ATN) toolkits link: (There are many resources on this page including safety-related information for wandering, water safety.
Raising and Educating Deaf Children e-bulletin July 2016 focused on Autism + Deafness. http://raisingandeducatingdeafchildren.org/page-ebulletins
Why Nature Why Horses for Deaf+Autism by Natural Wisdom Counseling, Boulder and Littleton, Colorado
Deaf Students with ASD (PDF)
Here is a link to an article written by Dr. Christen Szymanski specifically about deaf and hard-of-hearing students with ASD. The author shares background information and specific classroom strategies to implement when working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students with ASD. This article comes highly recommended by the LeClerc Center’s Deaf Students with Disabilities website through Gallaudet.
Sharing Autism Research on Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students: Managing Behavior by Managing the Classroom
Dr. Christen Szymanski gives guidance to teachers and professionals on how to provide their students with ASD the best possible interventions in her PowerPoint presentation on “Making Learning Accessible for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students with ASD.”
In this webinar on deaf and hard-of-hearing students with autism, Dr. Christen Szymanski explains the early warning signs of autism that may present in young deaf or hard-of-hearing children. She discusses how some of the current characteristics, warning signs, and tools for diagnosing autism in deaf or hard of hearing children may not apply. PowerPoint: Click Here
Odyssey: Autism Issue: When Deafness & Autism Coexist in Children, 2008 (PDF)
This issue of Odyssey is entirely focused on deaf students with autism spectrum disorders. There are articles by deaf parents of deaf students with ASD, teachers, and researchers. The issue discusses a wide range of topics that inform parents and provide practical strategies for parents and teachers living and working with deaf students with ASD.
Deaf Autism America
This website is specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing students with autism spectrum disorders. You can contact the founders of the site to receive newsletters and information about future developments of the organization.