Special needs children require special attention, or else seats adapted to their physical requirements such as those we have been reviewing in ‘Children's Road Safety’. Among these so-called special needs, conditions such as sight and hearing impairments form part of the overall picture in which special attention is vital to ensure that any car journey is satisfactory, guaranteeing not only the safety of the child but also its comfort.
It is important to highlight that, on occasions, it could be that people don't realize their child or baby has a hearing impairment. To be aware of it you need to look out for the most common symptoms which, depending on the age, can be summarized as follows:
- If, between eight and ten months old, their head does not turn towards the source of sounds, or they do not make gurgling noises, it is possible they have a hearing impairment.
- At two years old they should understand simple instructions without the necessity of any visual support, and at three years old they should be capable of locating sound sources with no problems and to be able to repeat phrases.
- Between 4 and 5 years old they should be able to conduct simple conversations, tell you what is wrong with them, etc.
One of the most unequivocal signs that something is not right, apart from not being able to pick up on sound sources is that they repeat the question “What?” too many times. There is no need to worry about the occasional “What?” - four to five year-olds tend to get distracted by things they find more interesting, but it is important to go to a specialist if this becomes habitual just as it is if you detect the aforementioned symptoms unless, of course, they are not just isolated cases.
How to travel with children if they have a hearing impairment
Children with hearing impairments need an alternative more direct and affective form of communication, especially if they are unable to hear what is being said to them. Logically, there are different levels of hearing disability, and the purpose of this article is to give some general advice which, even so, may vary according to the degree of the child's deafness.
From the earliest age, it is important to interact frequently with babies through hugs, looks, smiles and by always responding to them. People who take care of the child should continue this interaction, with love, stimulation and care being the keys to the child's future development. As the child grows, it will learn other ways of communicating such as sign language.
During car journeys, and always according to the degree of the child's disability, it is advisable to have a direct view of them, with the possibility of looking at them in the face so that they have a clear view of your eyes and lips. To achieve this, a rear-view mirror additional to the central one can be installed, as a simple means of guaranteeing visual contact. As it is recommendable for children to travel facing backwards, it is necessary to install two mirrors.
Another option is to install special hearing aids, but in these cases it is best to start off by consulting a specialist. The positioning of a child with hearing impairment within the car is vital to being able to maintain complete visual contact, and in the case of a baby it is advisable for them to travel with an adult at his or her side.
In the case of school transport or any form of passenger transport, these children prefer to travel with other passengers who suffer from hearing impairments with whom they can share their communication difficulties.