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Auditory Disabilities

Children play with water tableChildren and adults with auditory disabilities will find your playspace accessible, safe, and enjoyable when you keep a few considerations in mind.

The degree of hearing loss varies greatly from person to person. Approximately 1 to 3 children in 1000 are born with hearing loss, but many children also experience trouble hearing from colds and ear infections.*

Occasionally, plastic slides and equipment cause static interference for children with cochlear implants. Static isn't harmful but can give a shock to the child or make the implant temporarily ineffective. An audiologist can reboot the hearing device. Researchers are trying to develop plastic equipment for playspaces that won't interfere with cochlear implants (read more here).

For children with mild to severe hearing impairments, be sure to include lots of visual and tactile elements at your playspace:

  • Bright, but not overstimulating, colors throughout
  • Use of colors and symbols to signify meaning and place
  • Frequent, large signs using both words and pictures
  • Plenty of tactile toys like manipulatives and fingerpaints
  • Plenty of room between equipment

*Sources

Center for Disease Control, Hearing Loss Fact Sheet

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/actearly/hearing_loss.html

Dotinga, Randy. (2006). Slides: A Playground Menace. http://www.wired.com/news/technology/medtech/0,70937-0.html

Drain, Alison. (May 2006). Engineers hope to provide smooth slide for kids with cochlear implants. Washington University in St. Louis News & Information. http://news-info.wustl.edu/news/tips/normal/7078.html

Helpful links:

Greenstein, Doreen. (1998). Caring for children with special needs: Hearing impairments. NCSU Dept. of Family Consumer Sciences. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/nc13.pdf

KidsHealth (2006). Central Auditory Processing Disorder. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/medical/ears/central_auditory.html

KidsHealth (2006). Cochlear Implants. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/cochlear.html

Wikipedia (2007). Deafness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf

(Photo courtesy of Kompan)