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Encouraging communication with a deaf child

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Julie Loe

Question

I would like any tips you may have for encouraging communication skills for a little guy, 11 months of age, whom has severe hearing impairment.

Thank you,
Michelle

Answer

Communication covers such a broad area. Since I do not know your professional training or the skills of the child that you are working with, I will offer you the following tips:

Work at the level of the child (on the floor)

Model sign language (Book suggestion: Baby Signs)
social- HI, BYE, THANK YOU
requests-WANT, MORE, FINISHED/ TERMINATING ACTIVITY, HELP
familiar people, objects to the child- DOG, MAMA, BABY, BIG BIRD

Teach the child's parents and significant others how to model signs

Do activities which encourage turn-taking. This is critical for them to understand since communicating with others is a reciprocal relationship.

For example, you hold all of the shape blocks that fit into the box with holes. Say, "It's Child's Name's turn." Model the sign WANT as he looks at the shape blocks. Encourage imitation of WANT or help him sign it. Hand the object to the child, or let him pick one out. Before he puts it in the hole, sign IN. When his turn is complete, you may then sign Therapist's name's turn.

Sign WANT to say that you want the blocks (which you are still holding on to). Pick one out. Sign IN. Put it in. Before it's time to dump the blocks back out, sign OUT. When the child chooses another activity, model FINISHED to indicate a change in activity.

This is but one technique to encourage communication skills for language delayed and Deaf or hard of hearing children. I would suggest a speech-language pathology consult for specific help with your client.

Hanen produces some wonderful and user-friendly literature to help parents and professionals teach young children to communicate. I believe they are based out of Canada.

Woodbine House publishes a good book called The Language Of Toys with specific suggestions on combining specific toys with language development.

Best wishes!
Karyn, Speech-Language Pathologist

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Last modified: January 26, 2013