Choosing an approach
To start, your choice will be guided by what you think is best for your child. As your baby grows and starts to reach their first milestones, you will be able to monitor their progress and, together with professionals, you can consider whether a different approach is needed. Below are questions to ask yourself as well as things to consider when talking to professionals.
- What level is my child’s hearing at and how much are they able to communicate verbally?
- What support will my family and I need to learn to communicate with my child in our chosen approach? (i.e. meaningful two-way conversations and interactions)
- What new skills will we have to learn as a family and how can we best commit to that?
- Will professional support for my choice be provided locally or will I need to travel?
- Will I need to pay or is funding available to support my choice?
- How might my choice affect my child’s future, in terms of social and educational experiences and opportunities?
- What are the communication choices available to me and my child? (Ask to see the local service’s communication policy and check your local authority’s Local Offer on their website.)
- What other approaches might be supported in the surrounding areas?
- Are there any other approaches that I can find out about?
- Where can I get other information from?
- Can I meet other parents who have chosen a variety of approaches and learn from their experiences?
- Can I meet deaf adults or young people who use varied approaches to learn from their experiences?
- What opportunities exist locally for my child to learn alongside other children in our choice of approach?
- What staff does the service have to help me support my child’s communication? What specialist skills and training do they have and how will they support my choice?
Support for all communication approaches is not always readily available in every area.
If your preferred choice of approach is not routinely supported in your area, then talk to professionals who work with your child and your National Deaf Children’s Society Children and Families Support Officer, so you can be helped to access the support and information you need.
Remember, it is your child’s needs that should guide your choice most, not just the availability of the approach you prefer to use.
As well as getting information from your local services, there are academic institutions, charities and private businesses that can direct you to research that may help to make an informed choice about communication.
Although there is not enough evidence to champion any one method over another, all the approaches can point to evidence that shows successful outcomes for children.
- You need to be aware of the potential biases of those informing you about the different approaches and make sure you get to explore a variety of perspectives.
- Although some approaches may work with some children, they may not work with others.
- Your choice needn’t be guided by your 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.
If you feel that your child is only ‘coping’ socially and educationally rather than ‘thriving’, then consider whether your choice is still the best one. If not, it doesn’t mean your first choice was ‘wrong’, just that now you know more about your child’s natural strengths and style of learning, another may be more suitable. Monitor your child’s development against typical expectations, and also look at how their communication allows them to enjoy their friendships and social experiences.
Responsible professionals, even those who work within one particular communication approach, will be prepared to discuss your child’s progress and development with you and help you consider other options. No professionals should pressurise you to continue with an approach – however much they believe in it – if it is not supporting your child to make the best progress.
Read about how one family came together to support their deaf child.
If you are worried about any aspect of your child’s development speak to the professionals who support you, and re-evaluate your choice of approach. Here are some questions to ask them about the implications of any change.
- Will it involve changing nursery or school?
- Will it involve different ways of supporting your child’s social needs?
- Might you need to learn new approaches as a family?
- What impact might change have on your child?
- Is your child old enough to express a view his or herself?
If your child or your family’s view is different from yours, then talk through the possibilities together with the professionals who know you. As your child gets older, they will develop their own communication preferences. All children are different, and needs and preferences can change over time. Do make sure that you give your choice the commitment it needs and a fair chance to succeed before deciding any change may be needed.
For more information download our guide Helping your deaf child to develop communication and language (for parents of 0—2 year old) provides practical advice on what you can do to encourage your child’s language and communication development in their early years.