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Language and communication: the first barrier a deaf child faces

Published Date: 13 Apr 2021

’Deaf babies do not have any innate problems with learning a language per se – they just have more difficulties learning a language that is spoken rather than visual. Deaf babies born into signing rich families will acquire sign language easily.’’

- Lorraine Wapling, keynote speaker

Deaf Child Worldwide recently held a webinar looking at the topic of language and communication and how deaf children acquire and learn language.

Lorraine Wapling, an expert on early language development, gave the keynote. You can watch it below. 

Lorraine discusses:

• The fact that being deaf only impacts a child’s ability to learn spoken language – it doesn’t affect language acquisition.
• However, deaf children are most often surrounded by language role models they cannot access.
• This creates significant delays in early language development.
• Why early diagnosis – particularly before the age of three – is critical.
• Deaf children are underperforming in education due to missing out on early years of formative language learning.

We also heard from Dr Joyce Nalugya, founder of the National Association of Parents of Deaf Children (NAPADEC) in Uganda.

Joyce tells us:

  • How she and her husband felt when their child was diagnosed as deaf
  • Her journey to founding an organisation that connects and trains parents of deaf children
  • How NAPADEC teaches ‘total communication’ skills to parents
  • Why early diagnosis is hard, particularly in the rural areas, due to lack of services and cultural misunderstandings of deafness.

Finally, participants of the webinar asked questions of the two speakers.

The Question and Answer session included:

  • What support is needed for deaf children diagnosed late
  • Getting deaf children into secondary education
  • Breaking down stigma and the role of families.


The next webinar in the Unheard Children series will be on Families. Click here to find out more.