Here are some tips for how best to communicate with your child with hearing loss during playtime. It’s common knowledge nowadays that children learn best through play, and it’s important that communication development is included within that learning experience. Some of these tips are easier to keep up than others, and some are more practical to do on a regular basis, but each of them should give us something to think about…
Enjoy the Everyday Home
- There are lots of noises that go on in the home and they constantly alert us to our surroundings, putting things into context for us and letting us know what we can expect. For example, the phone ringing, a knock at the door or even the vacuum cleaner being switched on in the next room. Try to encourage your deaf child to actively listen to these noises so he or she can put them into context, and learn what to expect from them in the future. By helping your deaf child to actively listen, they will likely make connections to other signs and signals that alert them to what is happening. For example, they may actively listen to the phone ringing with you and this may cause them to notice that a light blinks when it rings, and they may in turn use that light to anticipate a phone call in the future.
Support and Reinforce
- Even more so that with any hearing child, try to support any learning with the use of books, signs, toys or pictures. Without having the full access to language that hearing children have, visual cues are extremely important in learning.
Make it Relevant
- Try to buy at least some books that feature the use of sign language or strong gestures in the pictures. Without being able to rely as heavily on the spoken word to understand what is happening, it’s nice for deaf children to be able to appreciate stories that show children communicating by the same means they do, to stop them from feeling ‘different’ to everybody else and build their confidence.
- Children learn communication skills by copying what their parents and others do. A good tool for encouraging speech can be to role play with toys, allowing them to speak to each other. There are some great signing puppets online for kids with hearing loss that can help with this if sign is their main method of communication.
- It can be really tempting to speak at a very high volume most of the time when you have a child with hearing loss who you know struggles, but for a child with hearing aids, cochlear implants or BAHAs to treat their hearing loss, this is not necessary. In fact, it’s best to speak clearly, at a normal pace and a normal volume so your child gets used to listening to speech at normal levels, and can cope better in normal situations outside of the home and your care.