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Things to think about

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HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Deaf > Chapter 7: Choosing and learning a language > Things to think about

Because each family — and each child — has different needs and abilities, there is no single method that is always right for everyone. The important thing is to work well with the resources you have. The next few pages give some information and ask some questions that can help you get the best results with your child.

may succeed if: is more likely to succeed if:
  • your family is able and willing to learn and use sign language.
  • there are people or books that can teach sign language to your child and your family.
  • there is a deaf school in your area that teaches sign language to students.
  • your family is patient and everyone works hard to learn and use sign language.
  • there are people who can teach a complete local sign language to your child and your family.
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may succeed if: is more likely to succeed if:
  • your child can hear some speech sounds (see Chapter 5, 'What can your child hear?').
  • your child learned to speak and understand words before he lost his hearing.
  • your child finds it easy to read lips (some children are better at it than others).
  • your child has a hearing aid that he uses almost all the time.
  • your child gets professional help at a clinic or pre-school program for deaf children.
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How many people will your child be able to communicate with?

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Make sure everyone signs whenever a child who uses sign language is present.

It is important for children who cannot hear well to communicate with many other people. A child who uses home signs can communicate with only the people in his home. A child who uses a more complete sign or spoken language will be able to communicate with more people. A child who can also read and write the local spoken language will be able to communicate with many more people.
Whether you use a spoken or sign language, it is very important that the whole family use it together. This way your child can communicate with everyone in the family. He will also feel included in the family and can learn about the world from their conversations.

People without hearing problems can learn sign language if they want to. See a story that tells how people in a town in Brazil learned to communicate with deaf children.

What if your child's first language is not your language?

Using the same language helps communication. But often the sign language used by deaf children to develop their minds and learn about the world is not the language used by their families. Many parents and deaf children who use different languages find it difficult to communicate with each other. They may not feel close to each other and become frustrated because it is so hard to understand each other. Deaf children may feel left out in the family home.

Sign language may be best for the child but less convenient for the family. Or it may draw attention to a child who communicates in a different way. But with the support of their communities, parents of deaf children can help their children learn the language that is right for them.

A man and a woman signing to each other.
I feel so happy now that I can use sign language with Amadou.
And we can help
his cousins learn
to sign, too.

When did your child begin to have difficulty hearing?

If your child became deaf after he learned to speak, he may still be able to read people's lips and improve his speech. He can continue to develop his language even after he loses his hearing. But if your child is born completely deaf or cannot hear speech sounds, it will be very difficult or impossible for him to learn to read lips or to speak.

4 children in a classroom looking up their teacher, who holds a book.
Children who learned to talk before they lost their hearing can speak better than children who were born deaf.
This boy lost some hearing at age 3. He can hear some speech sounds. He may learn to speak and read lips.
This girl became deaf when she was 6. She can speak and read lips.
These children were born deaf. They cannot speak or read lips.

How much can your child hear?

The more speech sounds (talking) a child can hear, the more he can use his hearing to understand words or parts of words, to read lips, and perhaps to learn to speak. Children who cannot hear speech sounds will have difficulty learning these skills or may never learn them.

This child can hear speech sounds. She might learn to read lips and to speak. This child cannot hear any sounds at all. It will be very difficult or impossible for her to read lips or to speak.
A woman speaking to a small child.
What's that, Safiya?
A woman signing to a small child.
What do you have, Abena?

Will your child use a hearing aid?

A vendor speaking as he shows a hearing aid to a woman.
This is the best brand of hearing aid. Of course it will help your child.
A hearing aid may help your child. But it may not. Do not let anyone pressure you into buying something or make you feel guilty if you do not.

A hearing aid may help your child understand words. But hearing aids do not help all children. Sometimes health professionals may suggest that your child use a hearing aid. Try to get opinions from other parents with children who wear hearing aids, and remember that each child's hearing is different. If you think you want to buy hearing aids for your child, read more information to help you decide.

The people who sell hearing aids may give you some information about them. But they are not always the best people to ask for advice. They may be more interested in selling their products than about finding out what is right for your child. Sometimes the clinic or the hearing aid store may allow the child to use the hearing aid for a few days or weeks before deciding to buy it.