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Developing language and communication in babies

Supporting communication with deaf babies and toddlers

Watch our video series, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, about supporting the communication development of deaf babies and toddlers with any level of hearing loss, from mild to profound.

Most parents of deaf children are hearing and don't have much experience of hearing loss so it’s understandable that you might feel unsure about how to engage with your child.

In most cases there is no reason why, with the right support and encouragement, your child can’t develop the same language and communication skills as other children.

There are many simple things you can do to create an environment where there is lots of communication and interaction.

Tips for communication and language with babies aged 0–12 months

At 0–3 months old:

  • Keep on talking/signing during everyday routines – nappy changing, bathing etc.
  • Sing to your baby. Babies love to listen to people singing, and it helps naturally emphasise the rhythm and tone of your voice which really helps language learning.

At 6 months old:

  • Get some baby books for your baby to explore. Your baby may throw them or put them in their mouths but this early exposure to books can help to develop an interest in them.
  • Baby swings are great for saying hello and goodbye.
  • Copy baby's babble patterns and mould them into real words – "dada – yes, Daddy's coming!".

At 9 months old:

  • Carry on singing action songs and nursery rhymes, using actions and signs to go with them – leave gaps when you sing to allow your baby to take a turn. Watch Sense's video on signing songs for tips and ideas.
  • Share books with your baby. Big colourful picture books work best at this age.
  • Watch programmes for young children together and talk/sign about what's happening.

At 12 months old:

  • Respond to your baby's communication attempts by repeating words your baby has said and expanding on them on them, for example, baby says: “car”, you say: “yes, car! That’s Mummy’s/Daddy’s car!” Keep introducing new words into their lives.
  • Look at picture books together, but let Teddy look too – soon your child will be reading Teddy a story. Watch Sense's video on sensory stories for tips and ideas.
  • Keep talking about feelings and introducing new words to describe them. For example, “What a surprise!” or “Mummy/Daddy’s feeling a bit sad today”.

You can also download our Developmental Play Chart which offers lots of play ideas for children at all stages of their development.