Questions about Communication

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How do I communicate with my child and how will my child communicate?

Most infants and toddlers, whether they have a hearing loss or not, use their eyes, their faces, their voices, their hands, and sometimes their whole bodies to give “communication signals”. Look for these signals from your child and respond to them as communication – as your child’s way of telling you that he or she is hungry, needs a diaper change, is tired of being in the same position or maybe wants a hug and some attention. Respond using words and actions, and try to make your own communication as interesting as possible through facial expression, voice inflection, gestures and body language. You and your baby will soon begin to understand each other and communication will grow. Topic Card #7 has more information on early communication.

How do I get my child’s attention?

You can try several approaches: use a normal tone of voice and call your child’s name, tap your child gently on the shoulder and wait for a response or move so that you can be seen. Try to be in close proximity to your child and at eye or ear level. Children respond to things that are rewarding or meaning full; have a reason for getting your child’s attention – to give a favorite toy, a bottle, a smile or a hug.

What communication options exist for my child?

Remember that communication of any kind is important and that voice, gesture, and facial expression are all forms of early communication. Communication grows when you and your baby enjoy interacting with each other. Communication options for children who are deaf and hard of hearing include Auditory /Oral or Auditory-Verbal, American Sign Language, Cued Speech, and Simultaneous Communication (signed English and speech). These communications options are often combined in ways that best match the individual needs of children and families. The terms and definitions section of this guide gives a description of each of these options.

Where can I learn more about communication choices or options?

Your deaf education parent advisor is an excellent resource. Your parent advisor can help you locate people and books that will provide more information. Talking with parents of older children who are deaf or hard of hearing, with adults who are deaf or hard of hearing, and visiting schools that serve children who are deaf or hard of hearing are also good resources. Topic Card #8 is another resource.

If we choose a sign language option for our child, where can we learn sign language?

You may be able to include sign language instruction in your Individual Family Service Plan through ECI. Sign language classes are offered through deaf education school programs, churches, and community colleges. There are video tapes, DVDs, and books available. The opportunity to communicate on a regular basis with individuals who use sign language is one of the best ways to learn.

How will my child learn to talk if he or she can’t hear?

There is no one answer to this question. There are too many variables in hearing loss. In addition, some people think that talking is very important and others think that being able to communicate clearly through any method is most important. In general, babies learn to talk through listening and beginning to imitate what they hear and by learning that using voice and words can get their needs met. Advances in auditory technology help many children who are deaf or ha rd of hearing learn to talk through the same way. For some children, learning sign language provides a first language and spoken language comes later. To encourage spoken language, put the hear ing a ids or cochlear implant on y our child whenever he or she is awake. Make your voice interesting, talk about things that have meaning for your child and always reinforce your child’s attempts to communicate with voice or words. Topic Card #6 has more information on the relationship of hearing and child development.