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Childminding a baby or child with a hearing loss

Photo: As a childminder, parents may feel you can give more one-to-one support.

Many parents choose to have their child cared for by a childminder. As a childminder, you can provide a home-from-home, child-centred environment where all children can thrive, while still providing a fantastic early learning experience tailored to the child’s needs.

For a parent of a deaf child, there may be additional reasons why they choose to use a childminder instead of an alternative setting such as a nursery.

  • The home environment may be quieter and calmer than a nursery setting.
  • The acoustics may be better than other type of settings, eg a carpeted home will create a better listening environment for a deaf child.
  • A deaf child may benefit from more opportunities for one-to-one attention. For example, sharing a book with a deaf child is much easier if they’re on their own.
  • They may feel that, as a childminder, you’ll be better able to understand their child’s needs and more willing to make any adaptations, rather than the parent having to explain those needs to lots of different staff in a nursery setting.
  • You may be able to be more flexible, changing your routine to adapt to the child’s needs and interests.

Tracy is a childminder. She currently cares for six children under the age of four, one of whom is deaf.

“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. 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.”

If you’re asked to care for an older deaf child after school or over the holidays, be aware that older deaf children may have different needs to their hearing peers, but they should still be treated in an age-appropriate way.

Overall, parents will be choosing you for their child’s care because they trust you, want their child to be part of a family when they’re not at home, and know that their child’s individual needs can be met in your setting.

What if I’ve never had a deaf child in my setting before?

  • You’re not alone! Most parents have no previous experience of childhood deafness and will still be learning every day. Most of the child’s needs will be the same as those of any other child in your care, and most parents will be keen to share with you the little things that you may need to do to adapt your care or setting for their child.
  • Levels of deafness can vary. A child in your care may have temporary hearing loss as a result of glue ear, have a unilateral hearing loss (in just one ear) or a profound hearing loss in both ears. Learn about the different levels of deafness.  
  • At first, the thought of managing a deaf child’s technology can seem a little daunting. Again, the child’s parents should ensure you have all you need. While you may need to learn to do small tasks such as changing a hearing aid battery occasionally, children also learn quickly to do these things for themselves as they grow. You can watch videos about taking care of hearing aids or find out more information about different types of hearing technology
  • You may be thinking, “I’ll never be able to learn sign language.” Don’t panic! Not all deaf children use sign language: many use speech, some use sign language, and some use a combination of signing and speech. If a child in your setting uses British Sign Language (BSL) then it will be really beneficial for you to learn to sign, too. For young children, Family Sign Language can be a great way to start signing. BSL courses may also be available online or in your local area. Get more information on learning BSL. Both the child’s parents and those working with the child, like their Teacher of the Deaf, should be able to support you. Be aware that Makaton is not the same as BSL, so although knowledge of Makaton might help you communicate with a deaf child who uses BSL in the short-term, it’s still worth learning basic BSL if you’ll be caring for them regularly.

Who can help me and where can I go to for information and support?

  • Many deaf children have a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) who has supported the family right from the start. The ToD can be a great source of information and support for you as their childminder and help you to understand their needs, as well as provide lots of other useful tips and information about childhood deafness. The child’s parents can help connect you with them.
  • If you’re regularly caring for a deaf child, you may want to access the same information that parents do. Our website is full of resources and information to help you both as a professional and from a family perspective. Our helpline is there to answer any questions you may have and if you’d like to attend our family events, you’re very welcome to join in your role as a carer for a deaf child. 
  • We are developing new practitioner resources and training opportunities for childminders which will be available soon. We’ll add more information on this page once these resources are ready.
  • The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) is a wealth of information, training and support for childminders caring for all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

What will be different for me when caring for and supporting the development of a deaf child?

  • All children are unique and have their own development and care needs, and deaf children are no different. Parents will be keen to help you understand the needs of their deaf child as best they can. Filling in a Personal Passport may help the family to share their child’s needs with you in a clear and concise way. You can view or print out a personal passport.
  • There are lots of simple ways you can make your setting more deaf-friendly, such as by using visual cues as well as sound, making sure the child can see your face when speaking, or keeping the subtitles on when watching TV. Find more advice about being deaf-friendly.
  • Childminders often play an important role in a child’s early learning. Deaf children will benefit from a smaller, quieter setting than most nurseries can provide. While social and group activities are important, be aware that a deaf child may prefer to do activities with you one to one. Their Teacher of the Deaf or other professionals working with them, such as speech and language therapists or Family Sign Language teachers, can give you ideas on play activities specific to their development. See information on supporting early learning for deaf children, including understanding phonics. 
  • If a deaf child you care for wears hearing technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, these will contain small parts which can be very dangerous when swallowed. Children wearing hearing technology should be supervised at all times. If you’re caring for an older child who can take care of their technology themselves, make sure they know to keep it away from any younger children in your setting. See parent tips for encouraging children to wear their hearing technology.

How can I make a deaf child in my childminding setting feel included?

  • If the deaf child is old enough, encourage them to share information about their deafness with the other children in your care. They might like to show everyone their hearing aid and explain what it does, or explain how the other children can help them communicate and be part of conversations. If the child is not old enough to explain this themselves, work with all the children and their parents in your setting to help them understand what will help the deaf child in your care to feel included. See quick tips on being deaf-friendly.
  • Reading books about deafness together might help other children in your setting to understand the deaf child’s needs. We have books about childhood deafness, or you can see reviews of other deaf-friendly books and games.
  • When you’re thinking about activities or trips out, try to think ahead about how that will work best for the deaf child. If you’re going to play games, can you adapt those, so they aren’t reliant on sound?  If you’re going to go out for the day, will the place you’re going to be noisy and busy? What can you do to prepare the deaf child for that?
  • If you’re looking after a deaf child after school, be aware that they may find this time of day difficult. They may feel tired from concentrating all day and not want to interact or play with other children straight away. This is called listening fatigue. Try to understand their needs and explain them to other children in your setting. If possible, give the deaf child a quiet space where they can relax and take their hearing technology out if they want to. Once they’ve recharged a bit, they may feel ready play with the other children in your setting and talk more. Find out more about listening fatigue for deaf children.
  • If you often travel by car, be aware that it’s more challenging for deaf children to communicate when they can’t see your face. Before you get in the car, explain where you’re going and how long it will take to get there. The child’s parents or Teacher of the Deaf may be able to explain how radio aids can help with communication in this and other settings.