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Communication and language

We want everyone to know about all the different ways Deaf children can choose to communicate. We are here to support you choose which is best for them and find out what help is available in Norfolk.

Communication approaches

Everyone is different and so is every family, so the right choice for you is the one that works best for you and your family. It's ok to change your mind about how you want to communicate as you grow and change. That's normal.

These are the communication approaches available in Norfolk. You can change your communication method if you want to. Choose which feels right for you.

  • Speaking and listening (auditory/oral)
  • British Sign language and spoken language (Bilingualism)
  • Total Communication.

Speaking and listening

The aim is to develop spoken speech and communication skills, to communicate and mix with hearing people. This approach is for children who prefer speaking and listening.

  • They will use hearing aids, radio aids or cochlear implants to make the best use of any hearing they have (residual hearing)
  • They will use cued speech, lipreading, speech reading, gestures, residual hearing to aid communication 
  • They may not use sign language or fingerspelling

British Sign Language and spoken language 

A bilingual approach uses BSL and spoken language (usually English, but it can be another language if that is what the family speak).

  • BSL is a visual language. They don't need hearing to learn it. 
  • When they have become confident in BSL, they can use it to help learn English
  • They can use BSL to communicate with the Deaf Community

Total communication

This is for children who want to use sign language and speaking and listening. How they choose to communicate depends on what is meaningful to them e.g. BSL signs, voice, picture symbols, photos, objects, assistive devices. The child is encouraged to use speech and sign language at the same time, as well as using other strategies to help them communicate effectively. They may use:

  • Lipreading, cued speech, speech, residual hearing to aid communication
  • Also gestures, English-based sign system, fingerspelling, picture communication symbols, photos, objects of reference

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Questions you may have

Where can we learn sign language?

Virtual School of Sensory Support (VSSS) has a commitment to working in partnership with parents/carers of deaf children and young people, aiming to promote their skills and confidence in communicating within their family.

We aim to ensure there are learning opportunities which are accessible to families. These consider geographical factors and the practical implications of demands on family time.

Norfolk has a range of opportunities to allow families of deaf children and young people to learn sign language. This includes British Sign Language (BSL).
A range of organisations offer opportunities, including both face to face and online options. They are usually offered at no cost to families. The available learning opportunities include:

There are also many Apps and online resources which parents/carers may find useful. The NDCS identifies these resources.

These resources form part of a universal offer to all parents/carers of deaf children and young people within Norfolk. This information is correct at the time of writing. Other opportunities may become available from time to time throughout the year. Where there is a greater level of need, VSSS can provide extra support on a bespoke basis. This will be according to the needs of the child or young person.


Can I meet other Deaf children?

Yes. There are opportunities to meet other Deaf children and their families either on their own or in a group. You can join voluntary groups in order to meet other children or your teacher of deaf children and young people may be able to arrange it for you.


What if things are not working?

Talk to your teacher of deaf children and young people and also the SENDCo in your child or young person's setting.


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