Hesperian Health Guides

About this book

In this chapter:

In this book we offer information, explanations, suggestions, examples, and ideas to help you respond in a flexible and creative way to the needs of the whole child. Every child who is deaf or cannot hear well is unique and will be helped most by approaches and activities that are lovingly adapted to her specific abilities and needs.

As much as we can, we try to explain basic principles and give reasons for doing things. After understanding the basic principles behind different activities or exercises, parents can begin to make adaptations. They can make better use of local resources and of the opportunities that exist in their own area.

In this book, we define ‘a child who is deaf’ as a child who is unable to hear anything. We use ‘a child who cannot hear well’ to describe a child who has some hearing loss but can hear some sounds (many people call this ‘hard of hearing’). Sometimes, when we refer to both groups together, we use both terms — ‘children who are deaf or cannot hear well’. But sometimes, for simplicity’s sake, we use one term or the other, meaning to include all children with hearing loss.

Several images of women, men and children from all over the world.
About the Pictures
Since this book is written for people around the world who care for children with hearing problems, the drawings show people from many places. We hope these drawings will remind you that people all over the world face the same challenges you do.

How We Show Communication in This Book

We show communication in 3 different ways in this book: speaking, thinking, and signing (using the hands and body to communicate in sign language).

When people speak
we show it like this.
When people think
we show it like this.
When people sign
we show it like this.
A man speaking.
Adam, come here!
A woman thinking.
I wonder where Adam went...
A woman using sign language.
Adam is in the kitchen.
The rounded box that contains the words has a ‘tail’ that points to the speaker’s head. The ‘cloud’ that contains the words has circles that point to the person’s head. The box that contains the words has a line that points to a person’s hands.

There Are Many Sign Languages

There are probably as many signed languages in the world as there are spoken languages. Signed languages are as old as history. They are not usually new languages recently invented. In many countries there is a national sign language for official use. Many countries also have regional sign languages.

Most of the pictures in this book show signs in American Sign Language because this book was written in the United States. (Some of the signs are in Mexican Sign Language or other national sign languages.) If you do not live in the United States, American Sign Language is not your sign language, and the deaf people in your community may not use or understand American Sign Language.

A woman with the palms of her hands facing up.

For example, although the spoken language in the United States, England, and Australia is the same, the sign language in each country is different. In the United States people use American Sign Language, in England people use British Sign Language, and in Australia people use Australian Sign Language.

In addition, many of the signs in our pictures are made-up signs, or are real signs but not the signs that match the words in the text. They are simply shown to give the idea of using sign language.

So please do not copy the signs in this book thinking you are learning sign language. If you do, the deaf people in your area may not understand you. Try to learn and use your own country’s national sign language. Deaf people who sign are usually the best teachers.

About the Way We Use ‘He’ and ‘She’ in This Book

Most books about children who are deaf talk about the children as if they are all boys and use the word ‘he’ to refer to any child. This happens because society holds men to be more important than women and that belief is built into our language.

A young boy.
A young girl.

In fact, girls are not only left out of our language, they often receive less attention and care as well. This can include getting less food and getting less health care — both of which may contribute to deafness.

In a small way, we have tried to reflect a more equal world by using both ‘he’ and ‘she’ to refer to children. Because ‘he or she’ is awkward, we use ‘he’ in some sections and ‘she’ in others. If at times this is confusing, please pardon us.

Remember, all children need and deserve our love and support.

To Start Using This Book

The first chapter of this book explains the kinds of problems many children and families face when a
child cannot hear well. Chapter 2 explains how parents and others can make a difference by helping children develop to the best of their ability. Chapter 2 also describes what you will find in the different
parts of this book.

Within each chapter we point to other places in the book you might want to look for additional information.

This page was updated:29 Dec 2021