Its Deaf Awareness Week and we would like to take this opportunity to provide practitioners with tips for communicating with deaf children and young people.
Every deaf person is different – with different levels of deafness, hearing aids, implants, technology and communication preferences but the tips below are useful for communicating with all deaf children and young people.
1. Find out how they prefer to communicate
Every deaf child or young person will have a preferred way of communicating, so find out if they use speech, BSL or a mixture of both. Not all deaf children use British Sign Language (BSL). Ask if they need any communication support and if so, find out what type and what level.
2. Get their attention
To get a deaf child or young person's attention you can wave, knock a table, or tap their shoulder lightly.
3. Face them when you’re talking
Make sure that they can see your face clearly when you're talking. Don’t move around while you’re talking as this will make it impossible for the child or young person to hear your voice and lip-read.
4. Speak clearly and naturally
Deaf children and young people may try to lip-read, so they need you to say words as you normally would. Speaking slowly or too loudly makes lip-reading much more difficult.
5. Watch your mouth
Covering your mouth with your hands or eating can make lip-reading very difficult. It will also muffle any sound you’re making.
6. Use visual cues, where possible
Point to what you’re talking about, using gestures to support your communication. For example, if you want to ask someone if they’d like a drink, you can point to your mug or make a drinking motion.
7. Make it clear what the topic of conversation is
They will find it easier to guess your words if they know what you’re talking about. Make sure the deaf child knows when the topic changes.
8. Stand with your face to the light
Standing by a window or in poor lighting makes lip-reading very difficult.
9. Speak one at a time
Group conversations can be difficult for a deaf child or young person to follow. Make it easier by asking everyone to take their turn talking and to make a sign if they want to speak next.
10. Reduce background noise
Hearing aids and cochlear implants help to amplify sounds. This means the person wearing them has to concentrate very hard on your voice to hear it over everything else. Background noises such as traffic or the radio can make it difficult for them to listen. Block out unnecessary noise by closing windows, doors and turning machines off.
11. Telephone alternatives
Some deaf children can use the telephone, but this is not to case for everyone. Consider alternatives such as text messaging, whatsapp or email.
12. Never give up or say “I’ll tell you later”
Deaf children and young people want to be involved just like their peers, so if one method doesn’t work, don’t be scared to improvise. You can try texting on your phone, emailing, or pen and paper.