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Additional learning needs (ALN) and early years

Getting support before your child starts school can help in lots of ways, including with early learning and communication as well as emotional and social development. Families of deaf children often get support in the early years from specialists in deafness, such as a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD).

Getting support

If your baby or child has been identified as deaf, you can contact your local authority (council) and ask to speak to the Early Years Additional Learning Needs Lead Officer (EYALNLO), about your child’s development and learning needs. The EYALNLO is your local authority’s key contact for ALN in Early Years. Find out more about the professionals you may meet after your child has been identified as deaf.

You can get support whether your child is looked after at home, goes to nursery, spends time with a childminder or uses any other kind of early years education or childcare. If you feel that having a plan stating your child’s needs, and how these will be supported, would help your child you can request a support plan.

Professionals working with your child, might also talk to you about having a support plan. This is known as an Individual Development Plan or IDP. Download our guide for parents on ALN and IDPs and our template IDP.

What happens next?

If the EYALNLO agrees that your child has ALN and would benefit from extra provision (support) they will invite you and the other professionals who support you and your child to a meeting to discuss your child’s needs. You should be included in discussions around your child’s ALN and IDP at every stage and any necessary communication support provided.

The support you and your family need will be individual to you and your child, so it will be important to think about what support you would like, who could provide it and how. The professionals who already support you will also be able to help with suggestions and information.

This could include:

Ifan IDP, the plan should be looked at again within a year to see whether your child’s support needs have changed. You should always be involved in these discussions.

We have more information and videos explaining IDPs and getting support in Wales.

What support can I ask for?

Language and communication

You can ask for extra support with your child’s language and communication development. This can be for yourself or your child’s education or care setting and should be recorded in the IDP.

For example, an IDP should clearly state how to create a good listening and communication environment so your child is able to develop and learn alongside others. An IDP will also lay out who will be providing specialist intervention and support, such as a ToD or speech and language therapist.

It's also important to record how you and your child prefer to communicate and what support is needed on your child’s IDP. Whether you speak a different language at home or use sign language as well as, or instead of, spoken English or Welsh.

For example, you may need to support your child’s communication, or your child may need an adult to help them communicate with other adults and children.

Hearing technology

Your child may benefit from other technology, as well as their personal hearing devices (hearing aids, cochlear implants or bone anchored hearing aids), to help them access language and support their development and learning. Your child’s IDP should record who will provide and maintain any hearing technology and how it will be used.

For example, many families of deaf children use a radio aid when it’s noisy or they’re watching something on a television or tablet.

Access to other deaf children and adults

Providing opportunities for you and your child to meet other deaf children and adults, can be a great way to help your child feel positive about their deafness and build their deaf identity. Your child’s IDP can record how this will happen.

For example, many local authorities run local groups for families of deaf children to meet and find out about deafness.

Specialist provision

If you think your child will benefit specialist setting for deaf children, it will be important to record child’s IDP.

Starting school

When your child starts school, they or the school may need some extra support or resources. An IDP makes sure this extra provision is in place before they begin. This could include:

  • supporting your child’s teachers and friends be deaf aware
  • making sure that your child can access learning and socialising
  • any extra support they might need to help them with their learning.

If your child already has an IDP, their transition to school and plans to prepare them for the move, should be discussed at a review meeting.

Review meetings

Review meetings are an opportunity to look at whether your child’s support needs have changed or are changing. They should happen every year after your child’s IDP is put in place. You can ask your local authority to consider an early review if you think this would be helpful.

If your child doesn’t already have an IDP and you think they’ll need additional support when they start school, speak to your EYALNLO or the Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo) at the school they will be attending. You can also talk to another professional, like your child’s ToD.