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Deafness and Me

Published Date: 01 Feb 2024

How can early years practitioners support deaf children’s mental health and wellbeing? Our in-house Teacher of the Deaf, Emma, introduces our latest free online toolkit for professionals working with deaf children in the early years.

At the National Deaf Children’s Society we’re passionate about making sure deaf babies and children get the best start in life. Building positive mental health comes from a place of understanding and is fostered through everyday opportunities and experiences.

So, when we were offered the chance to co-produce a resource for early years practitioners with Anna Freud, the world-leading mental health charity for children and families, we jumped at the chance.

Deafness and Me is an online toolkit which brings together information on the language, communication and deaf awareness barriers that deaf children face. It has simple tips, practical advice, useful resources and fun activities for everyone in the setting and in the child’s community.

Sense of belonging and deaf identity

Early years practitioners are on the front line, creating inclusive learning environments where deaf children feel known and accepted by all. There are lots of ways early years practitioners can create everyday opportunities for deaf children to see themselves represented and celebrated in their environment and their communities.

Personalised photo books are a great way of finding out as much as possible about a child, their deafness and how they communicate. They can invite others into the deaf child’s world alongside everyday play opportunities such as an audiology clinic in the home corner or a visit from a deaf adult.

Supporting deaf children’s language and communication

Early years practitioners support and promote relationships by knowing about and keeping the communication needs and possibilities of deaf children in mind. Deaf children may use spoken language, sign language or both. However they communicate, simple strategies such as adding in extra information through gesture and visual cues or giving every child a sign name, will make them feel valued.

Forming relationships and being social

Noisy rooms can make it difficult for deaf children to join in group activities, make friends and play with others. Making sure they can see who is talking, asking children to speak one at a time and repeating and rephrasing information will help them to be fully included.

Understanding feelings and emotions

Deaf children may not always have the language they need to talk about or label their emotions and feelings. A fun activity is putting salt in cola to show anger or excitement or waving scarves and ribbons for happiness.

Deaf children also love to see deaf characters in books and this is a great opportunity to introduce language about emotions and feelings and to talk about what they might be feeling and why.

Download the resource

To find out more and download the Deafness and Me toolkit, visit the Anna Freud website.

If you have used the resource and would like to feedback or be part of a case study, contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Take a look at the free supplementary resources we've put together to support the Deafness and Me toolkit.