Specialist advice for hearing parents with deaf children

The vast majority – 90% – of parents of deaf children are not deaf, and have little or no experience of deafness or how to raise a deaf child.

If you’re one of those parents then one of your biggest concerns might be how best to communicate with your child. Signed Stories opens up the possibilities and benefits of using sign language to enhance communication and to enable you to enjoy sharing stories together.

“Our daughter was diagnosed Deaf 38 years ago when she was two. The support we had was ‘just speak to her’. Thankfully we ignored this and started to learn sign language. I just wish there had been the technology and the commitment then to produce a simple children’s story with sign language so that, we as parents, could have shared this experience with all of our children, our deaf daughter and other hearing children.

Now we have a Deaf grandson and we cannot wait to sit with him reading a story in HIS language with him. We get to be 'proper' grandparents and it's wonderful.” Thomas and Moira McAuslan

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Here’s some advice from parents of deaf children:

Use sign language
“Signing is too valuable a tool in educational settings not to be considered. It provides deaf children with information they would otherwise be deprived of if they received an oral-only education, no matter how excellent their communication abilities.”

“I now feel that using signing allowed our daughter to learn lip patterns and learn English grammar. I think she has actually become much more fluent in spoken English language because she used signing in the early years.”

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Teach the words
"In the beginning they don’t have the words so you have to teach them…you really need to actively teach a deaf child so as to help him or her…to manage the frustration created by the deafness and by the lack of being able to express feelings."

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An early bilingual approach helps
“Because of all the input at an early stage – we’ve given him the words, given him the signs – he’s now able to actually name his feelings and pinpoint them.”

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Books are great language teaching aids
“If you can find a topic your child is interested in, it opens up a whole world of language development. My son learned the signs for colours and numbers through his love of trains and Thomas the Tank Engine.”

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Getting deaf children to understand about danger
“One of our biggest worries as parents is always how to warn your children about dangers and with a deaf child it is so much harder because they don’t hear you or they don’t hear you properly. The best way to warn him of the dangers…is to enact the situation.”

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Don’t ignore your child’s emotional needs
“A lot of focus with deaf kids is on their education and how well they’re speaking, or not speaking or signing or not signing. I think sometimes the focus can be taken off the emotional health of the child. We can get so excited “Oh! They said a word” – but you know, if they’re miserable, what’s the point?”

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Smart ways of making eye contact
“I had been given some very useful information which was: ‘Little boys play on the floor and push cars along and they don’t look at faces’. That makes speech development rather more difficult. So we got a long low table, got rid of our dining table…and that was the train track.”

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Be patient
“Often the first time a deaf person will hear something is when something’s repeated and it may be they only hear it on the fourth repetition when someone might be scowling with frustration.”

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The importance of communication
“It doesn’t matter which method of communication you choose, that’s for you to decide. But it is really important that there is some form of communication going on between yourself and your child.”

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Deaf children need other deaf children
“I think it’s important for her to be with hearing children, but much more important to be with deaf children – and so she goes to the deaf youth club.”

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