How To Teach a Deaf Child to Communicate

People normally communicate with others in writing or by speaking. But for a deaf child, communicating can be very challenging.  Hearing loss affects a person in different ways. The more severe the person's loss of hearing, the harder it would be for the person to learn to communicate.

A child's hearing can still be improved if his loss of hearing happens within the child's first three years of life.  A deaf child can still learn to speak and communicate if his impairment is diagnosed early. With today's technology, cochlear implants together with an effective educational and training program can help deaf children develop excellent language and speech.

Aside from using sign language, there are other methods that can be used to teach a deaf child to communicate. With a cochlear implant or hearing aid, a child with hearing loss can learn to talk and listen. The child maximizes the use of his residual hearing using the hearing aid or implant, and the therapeutic techniques provided to develop his auditory skills and spoken language. Here are the other communication options parents can choose to help their deaf child communicate:

  1. Auditory/Oral Method. The auditory/oral method aims to help a deaf child develop his academic skills and spoken language to be able to actively participate in the classroom and interact in a regular school environment. It prepares the child to live and do tasks in a hearing community. Visual techniques are used in teaching the child how to speak normally.
  2. Auditory-Verbal Method. The auditory-verbal approach has many similarities to the auditory/oral method. This methodology strongly focuses on helping a deaf child maximize his residual hearing and equips him with the ability to make use of it. A child who has minimal hearing is taught how to listen so he can learn how to speak.  Preset guiding principles to be followed by the child's parents and licensed professionals are used in implementing the auditory-verbal method. A licensed professional and the child's parents collaborate in teaching the deaf child how to listen and speak
  3. Cued Speech Method. For a child who has a more severe case of hearing loss and cannot use his amplified hearing to communicate, the cued speech method is more effective. It is a visual communication method that makes use of phonetic information and enhances a child's lip reading ability. In the cued speech method, the normal mouth movements while speaking are combined with cues or hand shapes that symbolize the sounds of speech.

The eight hand shapes help the deaf child differentiate sounds that may look the same when the lips of a speaking person are read, an example of which would be the "b" and "p" sounds.  Aside from the hand shapes, four mouth positions representing the vowel sounds are also taught. To further enhance the child's communication skills, most of the children taught using the cued speech method are enroll in other language programs that focus on developing auditory and oral skills.

Other communication options also include the:

  • (Bilingual/Bicultural) American Sign Language Method
  • Total Communication Method

Depending on the extent of your child's hearing loss, one or several of the listed communication options can work on your child. The degree or severity of his impairment and how long the communication method is implemented will affect how well your child will be able to communicate.

Before deciding on which method to adapt, gather more information and evaluate carefully the communication method that would be best for your deaf child.


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