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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

Questions you may have

It depends on lots of things like how deaf they are and whether you use hearing aids. Most Deaf children today are able to develop some speech and lots have good spoken language.

You can learn sign language in your own home through Deaf Role Models and Teachers of the Deaf.

You can go to a signing class or join a Parent and Baby Signing Group.

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 the Deaf may be able to arrange it for you.
Everyone is different and so are their problems. The main difficulty deaf children find is communication, so it is important to get good communication going as early as possible. You need to choose a communication method which suits you.
Talk things through with your parents, Teacher of the Deaf or school. It is always best to try to talk things through, often this sorts out any problems.
Your Teacher of the Deaf, Deaf Connexions and other professionals will be able to put you in contact with other signers. The local NDCS run a number of activities including a Youth Club on a regular basis where you can also meet other signing children and young people.

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