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Choosing an approach

Choosing a communication approach for your child can feel like a big decision. Remember, the choices you make now don’t have to be permanent. As your baby grows and reaches their first milestones, the professionals who work with your child can help you to monitor their progress and decide whether to try a different approach.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as well as things to consider when talking to professionals.

Questions to ask yourself

  • What level of deafness does my child have?
  • Is my child’s level of deafness likely to change in the future?
  • Does my child have any additional needs which might make certain communication methods more suitable?
  • What support will my family and I need to learn to communicate with my child in our chosen approach?
  • 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 for lessons in my chosen communication approach 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?

Questions to ask local services and professionals

  • What are the communication choices available to me and my child? (Ask to see your 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?

Finding communication approaches that are supported in your area

The way you choose to communicate with your child should be guided by what your child needs, not just by the availability of support for your chosen communication approach. However, 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 about how you can access the support and information you need. Our Helpline may be able to put you in touch with an Advice and Guidance Officer, who can help you to learn about the options.

Find out how one family in Wales pushed to get the services they needed for their daughter to learn BSL.

Making an informed choice

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. These organisations might promote a specific communication approach. 

Although charities and organisations promoting a specific communication method might have lots of evidence to show why their approach is successful, there isn’t enough evidence to show that any one method of communication is better than another. Every deaf child is different, and what works for one family might not be the best option for another.

  • Be aware of the potential biases of those informing you about the different approaches and make sure you explore a variety of perspectives.
  • Although some approaches may work with some children, they may not work with others.
  • Your choice shouldn’t be guided by your child’s level of deafness alone.
  • All communication 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.

Changing your approach

As your child develops and you learn more about their natural strengths and style of learning, you might want to try a different method of communication. That doesn’t mean your first choice was wrong. After all, you made your decision based on what seemed right at the time.

If you feel that your child is coping socially and educationally, but not thriving, then consider whether your first choice is still the best one. 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 put pressure on you to continue with an approach – however much they believe in it – if it’s not supporting your child to make the best progress.

If you’re 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 themselves?

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 their needs and preferences can change over time. Make sure to give any communication approach a chance to succeed before deciding any change may be needed.

For more information, visit our page Developing language and communication in 0-2's. This provides practical advice on what you can do to encourage your child’s language and communication development in their early years.