With that in mind I thought it would be useful to share some of the top tips that we’ve picked up from the NDCS. If you work in childcare and don’t speak sign language, these tips are brilliant for making the child feel comfortable, and engaging in discussion and activities.
It is best to ask the child’s parent or carer. It may be that they understand sign language and/or can lip read, or they may have developed special signals that they feel more comfortable with, or maybe they write things down or respond to pictures.
It is always best to check to avoid confusing the child by being unclear
If you’re not used to working with deaf children it can be easy to forget that you need to be clearly visible to them at all times to attract and keep their attention.
To attract their attention – wave, knock on a table or tap their shoulder lightly.Face the child when you are talking – kneel down to their level so they can see your face clearly and keep still so they can focus on you.
Hold babies so they are facing you – never sit with the baby between your legs facing away from you.
Position buggies so they face into the room when babies are sleeping – many deaf babies don’t make a sound when they cry, so you’ll need to be looking for visual clues that they are awake, such as kicking feet or waving arms. It will also reassure them to see faces when they wake up.
Remember to stand with your face to the light,standing by a window or in poor lighting makes lip-reading very difficult.
When reading a book, think about how you sit together. For instance, try to sit face-to-face or slightly sideways. You will also need to be within touching distance so that you can touch them if you need to get their attention.
If the child can lip read then you need to remember to speak clearly and naturally – this will make it easier for the child to lipread .
Think about what you are doing with your mouth – covering your hands with your mouth, chewing a pen, or gum, can all make lipreading very difficult and will also muffle any sound you’re making.
Remember to speak one at a time – encourage everyone to take turns to speak and make a sign or raise their hand if they want to speak next.
If the child in your care can lipread, have regular breaks as the concentration needed can be very tiring.
Make sure the deaf child knows what the topic is to avoid confusion. Use visual cues, where possible – point to what you’re talking about and use gestures to support your communication e.g. hold or point to a cup when it is time for a drink.
For young children you can also use picture cards e.g a glass of water, to make it clear what you’re asking them.
Never give up or say “I’ll tell you later” – try another way of communicating if one method isn’t working – draw a picture, act it out – be creative!
These tips have helped us to create a fun, safe and inclusive environment for deaf children, where they feel comfortable and confident in the care of our Purple People. I hope they have been useful for you too!