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It's a pretty point blank question. In case you don't know what selective deafness is, here's an example:

Me: "Hey Timmy, help me carry the laundry?"

Timmy: "..."

Me: "Hey Timmy, I really could use your help; there is a lot to carry"

Timmy:"..."

Me: "Hey Timmy, I just saw the ice cream truck stop outside"

Timmy: "What?! Can we go!? Can we go!?"

I don't have any children named Timmy but you get the idea. What do you do in those situations?

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very useful question! –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 17 at 9:24
    
After you find the cure for this, you'll be in a good position to solve world peace. Are we talking about school age kids here, or would you like an answer for all ages? –  Jax Mar 17 at 11:29
    
Any age you've dealt with will suffice. I know I had selective deafness growing up but until I became a parent, I didn't know how annoying it really was. –  ChristopherW Mar 17 at 12:36
2  
You just replayed my childhood. –  Tim Post Mar 17 at 18:07

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Get their attention first before you say anything else.

Timmy?

Timmy?

Until you get through to them, say nothing else. Try not to give away whether this is an icecream moment or a laundry moment. Surprise them by sometimes getting their attention with a laundry basket in your arms and saying "when I've got this laundry put away, do you want to have icecream together?"

If you can't get through to them with just their name, use a louder or sharper tone, or touch them. If they don't appear to fully engage (the grunt or yeah they learn a few years before puberty) don't start talking. Keep working on engaging them. Now if you never have anything fun on offer they will never engage, so be worth hearing at least once in a while.

Finally once you have them engaged ("look at my face!" I used to say to the kids) you can ask for help or offer the fun activity or whatever else. And make them say "no thankyou" or "I'd rather not" or "I need to finish this first" or whatever is an appropriate way to demur. (If there is no appropriate way to demur, then don't ask, tell.) You will know they heard.

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This is a great idea. Didn't even think of trying that. –  ChristopherW Mar 20 at 8:08

Have their hearing tested?

My son was accused of selective deafness by his kindergarten teacher. Guess what, a doctor found that he was partially deaf. Blocked Eustachian tubes had filled his inner ears with liquid reducing his hearing.

After surgery, and grommets and 6 months recovery, there were still some issues. In a noisy environment, he had a hard time hearing. We had another test done (a figure-ground discrimination test) and found that his brain had a hard time processing sound when the background sound was raised.

Once you have eliminated a medical reason, then you can look for a behavioural one.

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This is good but she does not have medical issues. We visit the otolaryngologist frequently for check ups and despite a middle ear infection every now and then, she is fine. –  ChristopherW Mar 20 at 8:10

One idea is to ask the child a question to check whether they have heard or not.

Pappa: Timmy, Can you take out the trash?
Timmy: ...
Pappa: Timmy, Can you take out the trash?
Timmy: ...
Pappa: Timmy, Did you hear what I said?
Timmy (in a perfect world): You said to take out the trash.

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