Author: Eleanor T. Robertson, Ph.D. Director, School Psychology, Trinity University

An important characteristic to be considered for the child with a hearing impairment is developmental stage. This issue is especially important if you are counseling the child individually, since you will not see peer interactions in your office. The development of a youngster with an auditory impairment is closely connected with the availability of an effective communication system since this can make experiences available to the child. Language allows an individual to organize and make sense of the environment and to develop a separate sense of self.  The ability to see a situation from another’s perspective is the result of social understanding developed early in life through interactive experiences (Woolfe, Want, & Siegel, 2002). Social development may be an area that is lower than same-age peers due to fewer opportunities for interaction both within and outside the family. For the adolescent, an additional developmental issue is the struggle for independence. The teen with a hearing impairment will most likely always require some dependency upon others so analyzing how to ask for assistance when needed and ways to develop independent functioning are unique challenges. An especially difficult area for the adolescent with an auditory impairment is coping with the need to “fit in” and not call attention to the self in ways that are odd or outside the acceptable norms. Again, the necessity for some assistance may make the teen uncomfortable and lower self-esteem.


  • Group therapy is especially good for teaching social skills. Since you most likely won’t have enough students with auditory impairments to create an entire group, select those with comparable levels of maturity, but perhaps different needs in the area of skill development. If you are not conversant in the communication system of your students, be sure to select an interpreter who is experienced in working with groups.
  • It is important to have the teen focus on areas in which control has already been established. Encourage the student to make decisions about how necessary assistance is to be provided. Work out situations ahead of time so the student does not have to re-negotiate each request.  If a buddy is needed for physical education, make the assignment before the student starts the class. Role playing in your office may be especially helpful.
  • Talk with teachers about ways to make certain the student understands assignments without drawing attention to the individual.