Advice for D/deaf parents of hearing children

Deaf parents of hearing children have unique challenges.

In many families the interaction between a deaf parent and a hearing child requires two languages – one signed, the other spoken.

The spoken language development of Children/Kids Of Deaf Adults (known as CODAs or sometimes KODAs) is often a concern because parents are usually the first teachers of language to children. It is useful to expose your child to other people’s spoken language very early on, while still remaining a major part of their early education. Signed Stories can help because it has audio tracks along with BSL and text. By sharing the stories together, you’re still reaping all the benefits of that intimate, special time with your child.

Written and spoken language will be a huge part of your hearing child’s life – and with your BSL skills, you can be a part of the learning experience.

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Some deaf parents may be unsure whether to use sign language with their hearing children.

ITV SignPost’s Deaf Team Manager Joe Sheridan who is deaf and has two hearing daughters says sign language and speech are equally important: “I taught both of my daughters sign language and the benefits have been enormous. The most important thing for our family was that we could all communicate and sign language really helped us to bond and enjoy being together.

“My girls could sign to me and tell me what they wanted when they were six months old, way before they were old enough to speak and they’re now confident communicators.”

Language acquisition (spoken or signed) in children from 0-3 is absolutely vital to the psychological development of the child. American research shows that hearing babies can learn to communicate using simple signs from the age of six months old. It reduces the frustration felt by babies who can’t yet say what they want, and actually can speed up the rate at which they learn spoken language.

Many CODAs report that learning the languages and cultures of both the deaf and hearing worlds helped them gain responsibility, maturity and the ability to empathise with others.

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Sabina Iqbal, the award-winning chair and founder of Deaf Parenting UK, says: “I am delighted that ITV Signed Stories is here now, enabling Deaf parents to sit with their children to watch those stories in BSL together with English subtitles and audio for hearing children, and to discuss the stories in depth - that is a fantastic opportunity where all family members can access stories without barriers.”

Best-selling international author GP Taylor had deaf parents, and grew up in a house with no books. He says: “I firmly believe that Signed Stories is the most exciting thing to happen in children's reading since the invention of the book. At last we have stories that will help children to come to love books. Totally amazing."

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Cultural benefits of storytelling

Many deaf people – or families with deaf members – report bad experiences with the hearing world because of barriers to communication, a lack of understanding about Deaf culture and misunderstandings.

Storytelling is a useful way to explain and discuss these issues with your hearing children.

It’s also a really good way to ensure you spend time together bonding, and that your children understand that although you are deaf, you can communicate with each other perfectly and that it’s nothing to worry about or be embarrassed about.

Siblings have an enormous impact on children. Relationships between them can be difficult – there can be lots of strong emotions in families, like jealousy, love and rivalry. Add in communication barriers, either between deaf and hearing siblings, or if there’s one sibling who has better sign language skills, and you’ve got a hotbed of issues.

Storytelling is an excellent bonding tool for families and encourages a positive relationship. Accessible stories in multiple formats (particularly on the iPad and iPhone which are valued by children as really cool gadgets) create a positive, inclusive shared environment. All your children will feel that they are being treated the same.

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