Parents have various options to choose from regarding their child's method or mode of communication. There are a variety of methods of communication that are used with children with hearing loss. The Center's Children's Communication Program follows an auditory/oral approach. The goal of the program at the Center is to teach a child with hearing loss to develop spoken language skills so that he or she will be able to be mainstreamed into a regular classroom setting and society at large. It requires that your child wear a hearing aid or cochlear implant and participate in intensive communication therapy with parent and family involvement.
When parents choose an auditory/oral approach, extensive speech and language input is necessary, and this takes time. However, exactly when the child will start to talk depends upon the child, the degree of hearing loss, the family's support system, the child's age when the hearing loss was identified and amplification provided, the benefit received from the amplification, and other factors. Learning to talk is a process that always requires much time and effort and includes reading lips and using other verbal cues to understand what others are saying.
- Sign Language: Children learn American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language. ASL is a language that uses hand movements, facial expressions and body positioning to communicate. ASL has its own system of meanings and grammar and is one of the most widely used languages in the U.S. ASL users may learn English as a second language and/or may learn English simultaneously with spoken English.
- Cued Speech: A way for deaf people to "see" spoken English, it was initially invented to teach deaf children how to read and helps children to “see the sounds.”
- Total Communication: This method typically refers to using a variety of methods of communication, including sign language, speechreading, learning spoken language, cued speech. In some Total Communication programs, teachers and children always speak and sign at the same time. In some Total Communication programs, communication at different times during the day is either done using sign language or spoken language.
Remember: There are many different ways of communicating. Every child is different. There is no one "right" way for all children. Regardless of which method you choose for your child, there are some important factors to remember:
- It is never too early to test a baby’s hearing
- A baby can be fit with hearing aids at just a few weeks of age
- Communication therapy can begin immediately
- Regardless of the mode of communication, parental and family support is key for a child to succeed.