Members area



Don't have a login?

Join us

Become a member

  • Connect with others through events, workshops, campaigns and our NEW online forum, Your Community
  • Discover information and insights in our resource hub and receive the latest updates via email and Families magazine
  • Access one-to-one support and tailored services which help reduce barriers for deaf children
  • Borrow technology and devices which support deaf children’s communication and independence
Menu Open mobile desktop menu

Access to language and communication in developing countries

Photo: Different types of deafness

Most people have heard that 93% of communication is non-verbal. While this statistic is disputed, it illustrates how good communicators are not only people who are skilled at using words, but also convey meaning using body language and other devices.

To achieve impact, and influence the world around us, we need to develop both language and communication skills effectively. But what is the difference between language and communication?

Access to language and communication

What is language?

Language can be described as the words (vocabulary), phrases, grammar and expressions we use and how we organise them to communicate. Language ability is both receptive (what we understand when others use it) and expressive (what we ourselves produce and use).

Babies develop a good deal of receptive language (but have less expressive language) during their first year. For example, a one-year-old child may understand quite a lot of what is said to her, but be able to actually say very little, as at that age, receptive abilities are more advanced than expressive ones.

What is communication?

Communication is the means by which we convey language, both to get our meaning across and to understand what others mean. It is vital not only to learn and to inform, but also to make connections and relationships with people.

It is crucial for our social and emotional wellbeing. It is also a two-way process and involves not only what we say or sign, but other things like eye contact, gesture, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. Communication begins right from birth, long before first words, with cries, then coos and smiles.

For children to learn a language well, they need to be surrounded by capable users of that language. It is important you explore a number of communication methods to best suit your deaf child’s needs and level of hearing.

What are the different communication methods for deaf children?

The different methods can be grouped into three types of approaches:

  • Sign language as a first language (Sign-Bilingual).
  • Listening and speaking (Auditory-Oral or Oral / Aural).
  • Using a combination of methods flexibly – sign, speech and hearing, fingerspelling, gesture, facial expression and lipreading (Total Communication).

Children with all levels of deafness can try communicating with any of these approaches. There is no one method which should be considered better than another – it comes down to what works best for the child and their family.

Making an informed choice
  • There is the possibility that those who inform you about different approaches are biased, so make sure you explore a variety of perspectives.
  • Although some approaches may work with some children, they may not work with others.
  • Choices needn’t be guided by a child’s level of deafness alone.
  • All the approaches can be successful for children with a variety of levels of deafness, although access to sound is important for the development of spoken language.

For further information, please read our International Informed Choice Policy.