Natural Aural Approach
The Natural Aural Approach focuses on developing listening and speaking with the effective use of hearing technology to make the most of a child’s residual hearing. It aims to help deaf children develop their hearing and speaking ability by using listening and talking in everyday life. The natural aural approach is very widely used.
- Uses natural everyday experiences, speech and conversation rather than direct teaching.
- Uses hearing and listening to develop communication skills.
- Relies on the use of amplification including hearing aids and implants and other technology that supports their use.
- Doesn’t use sign language.
- Discourages children from relying on lip-reading (although the use of natural gestures and facial expressions is encouraged).
Professionals who support the use of the Natural Aural Approach believe that the majority of deaf children can learn to listen and speak in much the same way that hearing children do.
The Natural Aural Approach seeks to support children’s communication and language development through the use of hearing technology, such as hearing aids and implants, in order to give children access to the sounds and spoken language of their home environment and the world around them. Communication skills are developed as part of everyday life, in social settings and at nursery and school.
Professionals who support the Natural Aural Approach believe that children learn to listen by hearing the ‘normal’ sounds of speech. You will be expected to use spoken language as the primary way your family communicates. You will be encouraged to communicate with your child in much the same way as you would with a hearing child, but recognise you will have to take more care to make sure your child can join in conversations and access the environment around them.
Natural gestures and facial expressions are considered important to help give meaning to spoken language but ‘a listening not looking’ approach is favoured where children rely on their hearing. Children are not encouraged to lip-read except when listening conditions are difficult.
If you choose the Natural Aural Approach the expectation is that your child will attend a mainstream school. However, there are some special schools for deaf children, and schools with a resourced provision, who use oral approaches. These types of educational settings may be more suitable depending on your child’s individual needs.
If your child does go on to attend a local mainstream nursery or school, depending on their communication abilities and learning needs, they may have regular input from Teachers of the Deaf (ToDs) or additional support from a specialist teaching assistant.
The aim is for your child to be able to mix well with hearing children and with other deaf children who communicate through speech. However, it is important to be aware that, depending on how effectively your child can communicate and the level of their language development, they may need extra help to support friendships.
In some areas the Natural Aural Approach is used by Teachers of the Deaf (ToDs) and speech and language therapists who work for local authority services. You will need to speak to your Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) or check your local authority website to see their local offer to find out exactly what support is offered in your area.
You can also expect professionals including your ToD or audiologist to support you to manage your child’s hearing technology and encourage good use in your child.
DELTA (Deaf Education Through Listening and Talking) is a national charity that supports and develops the Natural Aural Approach to the education of deaf children. DELTA’s website has information and resources to download about the Natural Aural Approach which you may find helpful. They also host meetings and run events for families with deaf children.