Listening and Spoken Language: Helping Families Through Social Media
As professionals who work directly with families to promote Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, we coach parents to be the first teachers for their children’s needs. But what happens when we leave their home, or they leave our office? They get on their phones!
Social media has changed the way we live our lives. From the way we get our news to the way we interact with our loved ones, social media is unavoidable. It’s powerful, and it’s here to stay. With two billion active social media users worldwide, 90.4 percent are Millennials, 77.5 percent are Generation X, and 48.2 percent are Baby Boomers. Users spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networks and messaging.
This gives educators an opportunity to connect more frequently with parents and caregivers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. This connection translates to knowledge when we share information on auditory verbal therapy, education, audiology, coaching, counseling, and more.
As a public-school teacher, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and connect with my students’ guardians in a social space. I work in a very diverse area that has a wide range of income, education, and involvement levels in parents, but one thing they all have in common is Facebook.
So in 2014, I created a professional Facebook page. I went through the roster of my students and “friended” every parent and caregiver I could find. The “About Me” section detailed my credentials, educational experience, and some fun personal information. I “liked” every school I worked in and “shared” their posts for families to see. I shared articles, information, and blogs – anything I found interesting for my parents to read. I sent out messages with reminders, updates, information about sessions, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting reminders and happy notes to the families.
As a direct result from my Facebook page, I saw an increased amount of parental involvement. Some cases went from zero- to full-involvement. In one specific circumstance, the school told me that the guardian had not come to an IEP meeting in five years. The child was struggling with academics, hearing loss, self-image, microtia, and on top of that, transitioning into middle school. After we connected on Facebook, the guardian actually showed up for an IEP meeting and has been more invested in the IEP process and that child’s education ever since.
But it’s not only parents that you have the potential to coach. Thanks to the reach of social media, you have the potential to help many more families! Once, I had shared information on parent advocacy and IEP training and later received a message from a former student’s dad. The parent had seen my post and driven over an hour to attend this live class. He felt empowered and excited to advocate for his daughter’s needs as she transitioned into high school. The teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing they were working with was surprised the family gained so much information in just a few days. That’s the magic of social media!
I am not naive to the fact that the diagnosis of hearing loss comes at a great shock to many. In today’s day and age, it is so important to share the facts, statistics, and true research regarding LSL for our children with hearing loss. Social media makes the world a little smaller and easier to connect with others. Connecting families and professionals really “closes the gap,” makes people more comfortable, and creates an open dialogue for questions and answers.
Maybe you aren’t a social media influencer with thousands of followers, but you can be a “friend” to your clients and families. Imagine if you were in their living room each night, giving LSL tips. Reminding them to turn off the TV, talk, sing, play… Posting every day gives you a chance to continue your LSL coaching through a screen directly into their home. The internet is a big place but with social media, it becomes smaller. It’s been so much fun connecting with these families online, sharing information, and developing a rapport that only social media can provide!
If you’re interested in connecting with your families in a similar way, feel free to follow me on both Facebook and Instagram @ListeningWithLauren.