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Suggestions for helping your child learn

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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Deaf > Chapter 3: Guidelines for teaching language > Suggestions for helping your child learn

Let your child take the lead

Children are most eager to learn when they are doing something they like. If your child seems interested in something, or likes to play with a special toy, make that an opportunity to help her communicate or learn.

A woman watches her small child play with toys.
Did you
find a new game?

Let your child take the lead. It will keep her interested and help her learn that her decisions are important. She will know that she has some control over what happens. This is especially important for girls. In many places, girls are expected to be quiet and to follow instructions. Helping a girl make decisions and follow her own ideas can strengthen her confidence and abilities.

But just because you let your child take the lead does not mean you allow her to act badly or get into dangerous situations. Your guidance is important. And the knowledge you have about her language needs and abilities can help you guide her play so that she will learn.

Make communicating fun and useful

A woman signs to her daughter.
What are you making, Najuma?

Children enjoy communicating when they have real things to sign or talk about, and people to sign or talk with. Try to give your child many opportunities to learn about the world and encourage her to sign and talk about what she is learning. Making conversation with your child will help her learn faster than if you ask her only to memorize and repeat signs and words.

Let your child help you do work

As your child helps you do your work, communicate with him about what you are doing. Use words or signs to ask him to help you do something, to get you tools, or to help in other ways. Your child will be more interested in paying attention and communicating when he is helping you do something you both value.

Get your child's attention before you communicate

A boy touches his younger brother's shoulder.
Suren's brother touches his arm to get his attention.

A child who cannot hear well needs to watch your lips move or see you gesture or sign to understand you. He also gets a lot of information from seeing the look on your face. So it is important to wait until he is looking at you before you begin to talk or sign.
To get a child's attention, move or wave your hand where he can see you, call his name, touch him, or hit a nearby object to make a loud noise so the child can feel the vibrations.

Other ways to get your child's attention

If your child is more interested in an object than in what you are communicating, you can get his attention by stopping all action, bringing the object close to your face, or gesturing or signing near the object.

A girl holding a toy signs to her baby brother.
To call his attention to the sign, Obasi's sister is signing near his toy.
  • Stop all action. If you completely stop moving, especially with an object in your hand, your child will probably look at you to see why you have stopped.
  • Bring the object close to your face, so he can see your face and the object at the same time (if you want him to see your mouth).
  • Point to or sign near the object (if you want him to learn a sign for the object).

At first, it can be hard to remember to get your child's full attention before you begin to communicate. But it gets much easier with practice.

Sign or talk face to face, at eye level

Your child will be able to understand more of what you say or sign if you squat down close to her (within about 1 meter, or 3 feet), and look her in the eye as you speak or sign.

If possible, try to have light from the sun or a lamp shining on your face, not from behind you. When the light comes from behind you, your face and hands will be in a shadow and harder to see.

A woman claps hands with her daughter.
Mariana's mother is playing a clapping game with her.
Sweet orange, half a lime, give me a hug so you'll...
...be mine!
A boy lifts a box where a ball is hiding. His mother raises her shoulders in surprise.
What do you have there?

It will be easier for your child to understand spoken words if you talk naturally and in a clear voice. Do not shout. Shouting makes the words harder to understand. Speak in short, simple sentences so you do not confuse her. It will be easier for your child to see your lips move if you do not have anything in or in front of your mouth while you are speaking.

If your child can hear a little

A small girl holds her hand behind her ear.

These suggestions may help her hear sounds a little better.

  • Cupping a hand behind the ear can help more sound reach the ear.
A woman speaking as she leans closely to her daughter.
Let's go give Mrs. Chifeve her gift.

  • Speaking close to a child's ear can help her hear better. This makes sounds louder and lessens the amount of noise from the environment. Remember she also needs to see your face while you are talking to her.

Use gestures, touch, and expressions on the face

A girl puts her arm around a young boy.

All people use body movements, touch, and expressions on the face to help people understand what they want to say. Children often use touch to communicate with each other. Children who cannot hear well find touch extremely useful. A touch will help communicate your care and concern in a way that nothing else can. Sometimes movements and looks can take the place of a word or sign. At other times they add information to words and signs.

An angry woman speaking.
Good girl!
Maria's angry expression sends a different message than her kind words. This is confusing.

Help your child by using your body and face to communicate as much as possible. First, try to notice how you already do this. Then look for ways to add to what you do.

Try to make sure that the messages you send with your body and face are the same as those you send with words and signs. If the messages of your face do not match your words, your child will be confused.

HCWD Ch3 Page 30-3.png
This father is shutting off the radio before playing with his son.

Reduce background distractions as much as possible

Background distractions, such as other children playing near your child, can make activities more difficult or even impossible to do. You can help by finding a place with few distractions. Try to get rid of any noises that are not necessary. When a room is noisy, a child who cannot hear well finds it more difficult to understand what is being said.

Change activities to suit your child

The activities in this book can help your child learn to communicate. But they are just examples of activities that can help a child learn. Watch your child carefully to see what interests him and makes him want to communicate — and also watch for what upsets him and makes him want to stop. Then you can think of ways to adapt the activities in this book so they will work better for your child and fit more easily into your family's daily activities.

You can also adapt these activities so they fit with your child's abilities. For example:

  • If a child can hear some speech sounds, help him learn simple words by giving them emphasis and repeating them. Then use the words often throughout the day.
A man speaking to his boy in the hot sun.
It is hot. Do you want some water? I want water too.
  • If a child cannot hear speech sounds well, teach everyone some signs to use with him. See Chapter 8 for information about teaching sign language.
A woman shows some children how to sign.
If you use this sign for 'ball', Paulo can understand you.
  • If your child can hear some of the sounds around her, everyone can help her pay attention to sounds by pointing them out.
A woman speaks to her daughter as she opens a door to let someone in.
Did you hear? Someone is at the door.

Helping your child grow
If you make these activities part of your family's everyday life, your child will have a childhood that is full of fun and learning. As he grows up he can:
join in family conversations develop friendships with
other children
A man, woman and 3 children eating together.
3 children play with a tire.
go to school and learn a trade
3 young children reading in a classroom.
HCWD Ch3 Page 32-4.png
meet other children
and adults who
are deaf or cannot
hear well
A couple smiling as they hold a small baby.
and years from now, marry
and have a family of his own.
He will be able to support
his family and be involved
in the community.

HCWD Ch3 Page 32-6.png
~ Be patient
~ Be positive
~ Keep

As you do the activities in this book, try to:

  • be patient. Very young children can only pay attention for a few minutes at a time.
  • be light-hearted. Learning activities will work only if they are fun for both of you.

Do not get discouraged. Do not expect immediate changes in a child's behavior. Your child will gain something from every activity, even if you do not notice it right away.