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Communication top tips

Photo: Get your top tips for communicating with deaf children here

Read our tops tips for communicating with a deaf child or young person

If you’ve never communicated with a deaf child or young person before you may feel nervous about how to do it. But don't worry  it’s not as hard as you think!

It’s important to understand that every deaf person is different – with different levels of deafness, hearing aids or implants, technology and communication preferences but the tips below are useful for communicating with all deaf children and young people.

1. Find out how they communicate

Not all deaf people use British Sign Language (BSL). Every deaf child or young person will have a preferred way of communicating, so find out if they use speech, BSL or a mixture of both. Ask if they need any communication support and if so, find out what type and what level.

2. Get their attention

To get a deaf child or young person's attention you can wave, knock a table, or tap their shoulder lightly.

3. Face them when you’re talking

Make sure that they can see your face clearly when you're talking. Don’t move around while you’re talking as this will make it impossible for the child or young person to hear your voice and lip-read.

Watch our video: Deaf Awareness: Face me when you talk

4. Speak clearly and naturally

Deaf children and young people may try to lip-read, so they need you to say words as you normally would. Speaking slowly or too loudly makes lip-reading much more difficult.

5. Watch your mouth

Covering your mouth with your hands, eating, chewing gum or smoking can make lip-reading very difficult. It will also muffle any sound you’re making.

6. Use visual cues, where possible

Point to what you’re talking about, and don’t be shy about using gestures to support your communication. For example, if you want to ask someone if they’d like a drink, you can point to your mug or make a drinking motion.

7. Make it clear what the topic of conversation is

They will find it easier to guess your words if they know what you’re talking about. Make sure the deaf child knows when the topic changes.

8. Stand with your face to the light

Standing by a window or in poor lighting makes lip-reading very difficult.

9. Speak one at a time

Group conversations can be difficult for a deaf child or young person to follow. Make it easier by asking everyone to take their turn talking and to make a sign if they want to speak next.

10. Reduce background noise

Hearing aids and cochlear implants help to amplify sounds. This means the person wearing them has to concentrate very hard on your voice to hear it over everything else. Background noises such as traffic or the radio can make it difficult for them to listen. Block out unnecessary noise by closing windows, doors and turning machines off.

Watch our video: A good classroom environment: Reducing background noise

11. Telephone alternatives

Some deaf people can use the telephone, but this is not to case for everyone. Consider alternatives such as text messaging, whatsapp or email. 

You can also use a video relay service which uses a sign language interpreter as the relay assistant. This works in a similar way to video chat. The deaf person is connected to an interpreter using a live video link. The interpreter will then use sign language to interpret between the deaf person and the hearing person.

There are several video relay services available in the UK including Relay UK, SignVideo, Sign Solutions, and ContactScotland BSL.

12. Never give up or say “I’ll tell you later”

Deaf children and young people have told us someone saying “I’ll tell you later” is their absolute pet hate. They want to be involved just like their peers, so if one method doesn’t work, don’t be scared to improvise. You can try texting on your phone, emailing, or good old fashioned pen and paper.

Download and share our free resources

Our website is full of free information and resources about deafness and how to be deaf-friendly. So please do have a look at what we've got and share information with your friends, family and colleagues.