Tracy Stobie, an Ofsted registered childminder, who cares for children with her husband, shares her insights.
What’s your experience of caring for deaf children and what do you enjoy most about it?
I’ve worked with one deaf child since he was nine months old – he’s now almost four. He wears hearing aids in both ears. I also care for five other children, all under four. I feel like I’m really making a difference, not only to the deaf child and their family but to the other children who learn to have such a positive view of deafness.
How can parents check that a childminder is good?
Look at Ofsted reports – all registered childminders in England are inspected by Ofsted (CSSIW in Wales, Care Inspectorate in Scotland, Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland) – to make sure they meet the childcare standards set by the Government. To register, childminders must attend training, including paediatric first aid. Every childminder (and assistants) needs a DBS check (Disclosure in Scotland or Access NI: Criminal Record Check in Northern Ireland).
How do you help deaf children develop their language and communication skills?
We learn through play – singing, stories and cooperative play. We use visual aids, give instructions one at a time and use signs with all the children. We also do one-to-one activities with the deaf child, given to us by his speech an language therapist. We model good listening and praise the children when they do too. As our childcare setting is also our home, our rooms have soft furnishings that improve acoustics and we limit music and television to reduce background noise.
How do you support their social development?
The children become very good friends. We celebrate each child’s strengths and differences and play with toys that show deafness positively, like teddies wearing hearing aids. During group activities, they save a space opposite me for their deaf friend, as they know he needs to see my mouth when I’m talking, and our games involve turn-taking and teamwork.
How do you work with parents to support the child?
Sharing information is vital – we use records, diaries, text messages and chatting at drop-off and collection. Before a child starts with us I visit the family at home to see what the child is like and to discuss their needs with the parents, and they all get to know me too. Review meetings for the child are held at my home and all the professionals who work with them attend.
What would you say to parents who are considering a childminder?
Ask lots of questions – any good childminder will be more than happy to answer them. Registered childminders in England follow the Early Years Foundation Stage, so you can feel confident that your child will learn and develop in line with nurseries, while also benefitting from a home-from-home environment.