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

Because the student with a hearing impairment has had some unique experiences, understandings in several areas may differ from same age hearing peers. It may be helpful to address these in a planned counseling session or just discuss them as appropriate in the context of other school situations.


  • Because language is important to the understanding of time, young children who have not developed a communication system, may have problems delaying gratification. For the student with a hearing impairment, immediacy and the present is of primary importance and impulsivity may be a problem (O’Connell & Casale, 2004). In counseling, as in the classroom, use distraction whenever possible to focus the child on a more goal-oriented task. For example, a simple re-direction to bring the student’s attention back to a topic or activity can be accomplished by communicating a question or by handing a child a crayon to encourage completion of a drawing.
  • Make sure the student is appropriately challenged in the activities you plan. A review of the child’s educational records, teacher interviews, and classroom observations can give you a good idea of the student’s abilities and interests.
  • Related to the child with a hearing impairment’s difficulties with understanding the process involved in the evolution of events, cause and effect may be difficult concepts (Rieffe, Terwogt, & Smit, 2003). Parents and teachers may not have taken the time to explain the reasons behind others’ behaviors and the necessity of certain rules. This approach may encourage the child to adopt a rigid application without exceptions. It would be helpful to spend time explaining why important class and school rules were established and the consequences of not having limits.
  • Although communication around many topics may be blunt for the individual with a hearing impairment, interactions around emotions may be avoided or simply not addressed. Children with hearing impairments lag behind hearing children on affective role-taking (Howley & Howe, 2004). Adults in the child’s life may not have taken the time to interpret and explain others’ emotional reactions so the student with a hearing impairment may not be well-versed in the subtleties of these topics (Rieffe, Terwog, & Smit, 2003). Explanations of the characteristics and manifestations of emotions would be appropriate, especially if these can be presented in a straight-forward, concrete manner.
  • The student with a hearing impairment’s self-esteem may be less positive than that of other students (Moores & Meadow-Orlans, 1990) so you will need to plan some specific activities around encouraging the development of a positive self image. Focusing on strengths and abilities is especially important in the counseling situation.