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Gallaudet Univeristy
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A Good Start: Suggestions for Visual Conversations with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Babies and Toddlers


Researchers have found that children whose hearing loss is identified while they are still babies tend to learn language more easily and more completely than those whose hearing loss is identified later. With some states now testing for hearing soon after birth, many children are discovered to be deaf or hard of hearing during the important first few months of life. This may give their parents a great advantage in seeking and providing the kind of support that enables their children to learn language naturally and on time. Until recently, little information was available to help parents with this task. However, during the 1980s and 1990s, research teams watched deaf and hard of hearing babies grow, measured their achievements, and identified the kinds of interaction with parents and other adults that gave them the best start.


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Section I: Engage in Frequent, Positive Communication with your Baby to Help Language Develop Faster

A More In-Depth Look:

Take time to respond to your baby’s needs

Use as many senses as you can to send messages to a deaf or hard of hearing baby

Section II: Be Responsive — Follow the Baby’s Lead

A More In-Depth Look:

Notice where the baby is looking or what the baby seems to be interested in

Pay attention to the baby’s arm, leg, and body movements

Respect the baby’s right to stop playing or communicating

Section III: Help Babies See the Communication and Language That You Are Using

A More In-Depth Look:

Especially with a young baby, often move your hand or body so the baby can see your communication while still looking at a toy or activity

Move an object (such as a toy) in front of the baby and then move it up toward your own face — when the baby can see your face and the object, communicate about it

Tap on an object, perhaps several times, before and after you communicate something about it — this helps the baby know what your communication is about

Tap on the baby to signal, “Look at me”

Relax — wait for the baby to look up on her own

Section IV: Gradually Modify your Communication to Make your Baby’s Transition to Language Easier

A More In-Depth Look:

When a baby shows that he or she is beginning to understand language, parents can start using very short sentences: one or two or three words or signs at a time, plus pointing or tapping on objects

Repeat words, signs, or short sentences several times and tap on objects or point to activities to show the child what you are communicating about

If you use signed language, you can also use fingerspelling

Don't try to send too many messages



Suggestions for Additional Reading