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How can a deaf child from a signing household develop listening and speaking skills?

June 17th, 2011 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

This post is written by a Deaf parent of a deaf child with bilateral cochlear implants.

How?? One may wonder how a child from a signing household is able to develop listening and speaking skills. It can be a bit tricky compared to most children of hearing or oral deaf parents. That means the signing deaf parents need to find other ways for their children to have opportunities to develop their listening and speaking skills. It takes time to plan things but it pays off in the end. As for my son, those are what I did/do:

  1. Requested AVT service from the local Early Intervention program for deaf/hh children. My son‘s teacher of deaf was already working with him weekly at a place that provides different fun activities for the general public, ages 0-3. The teacher attended all AVT sessions. She worked on transitioning from ASL to spoken language using techniques from the AVT sessions. The AVT service began the year before my son’s first CI. He had hearing aids at the time.
  2. Our AV therapist taught us some techniques that signing parents can use at home to start the child on associating sounds with objects. First one is called “Listening Walks”. We walked throughout the house, pointing out things that we already knew make noises – running water, flushing toilet, dog barking, knocking on the door, etc. It could be done in other places such as stores. Second one was making simple animal sounds with toy animals – “moo” for cows. *
  3. A private preschool. My son started in the 2 years old class one and half month after his CI was turned on.
  4. There is an oral language facilitator (provided by the EI program and then local public school district) who works with him and his teachers weekly. We asked for one who knew signs. Whenever my son signed something, the facilitator would say the word back to him. It was mainly for the first year of preschool. He is an oral student now.
  5. Sunday children’s classes at our hearing church. It took a while for the staff to learn about CIs and listening/speaking skills in children with CIs.
  6. Hearing children of our friends (90% of Deaf parents have hearing children). One friend has a daughter who is my son’s age. They speak to each other most of the time.
  7. I educated family members on AV.
  8. Weekly speech-language therapy at school – provided by the local public school district.

*Note: Another AV technique that deaf signing parents can use if they are comfortable with using their voice at home is called the “Sandwich” method. The person voices a word, then signs the word, and then voices the word again – to help the child associate the spoken word to a signed object. Tips for parents considering CIs and spoken language for their children: PLAN AHEAD!

  1. Contact different places and ask questions before selecting ones where the child will be getting spoken language as well as working on listening skill.
  2. Request to meet AV therapists that are available through the local Early Intervention program or EC program. If one is willing to work with the family but has no experience with a signing deaf family, it is recommended that the therapist contact a clinic or another therapist with the experience. One AV clinic to contact is Chattering Children in Washington, DC. The website is
  3. Ask hearing family members, if possible, to attend a few AVT sessions to learn more about CIs and how to communicate with the child. Some people still think that one will be able to hear and speak the moment the CI is turned on.
  4. Check out day cares or preschools before selecting one. Invite the teacher to at least one AVT session where the therapist can teach some techniques to be integrated into classroom teaching.
  5. Request for a properly trained oral language facilitator to work with staff and the child on specific communication skills. Also request for individual or group speech therapy for extra language exposure.
  6. Learn state and federal laws related to deaf education, IEP, IDEA, FAPE, etc and how to apply those laws to an oral placement instead of a signing one.
  7. Check out CI clinics and choose one you feel comfortable with and they respect your choices.
  8. Remember that ASL and spoken English are 2 separate communication modes. If both are used at home, a suggestion is to make sure to help the child understand that each mode to be used separately. It will take time for the child to realize this.
  9. In some cases, a family may choose to move to a new location with more better services.

Summer months – to continue daily spoken language exposure:

  1. While checking out preschools, ask whether summer school/program is offered. A few preschools run through the summer.   Also check on whether services the child receives can continue through the summer in order to avoid losing time in spoken language development – under “Extended School Year” (ESY).
  2. Check with local school district or an oral school (if one is close by) about any options for students with disabilities, some may offer summer school/program.
  3. Check for any summer programs offered in the home community or by religious organizations. If one is selected, have a meeting with the staff to help them to be aware of having a child with CIs and developing spoken language.
  4. Some local public school district will provide AVT service through the summer.

**Early start is essential in developing listening and speaking skills in a deaf child**


Deb M

November 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm

This is very interesting and encouraging to hear! It’s rare that I hear about deaf families embracing the oral world and CI usage. There’s so much controversy and focus among the deaf culture about “rights” of the child. I’m not against deaf culture but in my opinion, children have no rights until they’re adults. It’s up to the parent to do what they feel is best for their child and to give them the tools they feel they need to succeed in life. I applaud your extraordinary efforts to give your son the therapy and training early on and your support of his learning …In your case, you’ve gone above and beyond to get him on the path of success.Obviously, you want what’s best for him and like people say, it takes a community to raise a child. Thank you for this great read!

Deaf Person

December 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I am the mother who wrote this post. Thank you for the encouraging words! Sometimes it can get rough for me and I need to remember why I am doing this.

Deb M

December 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Someday down the road, you’ll look back at all the hard work and your son will thank you for it! Patience and Perseverance…