Educating the Deaf Child: Speaking, Reading and Teaching

By Lily McCann

There are 70 million deaf people worldwide. Current estimates suggest anywhere from 800,000 to 2 million deaf people live in the US and Canada. With this substantial figure in mind, it’s no wonder that special education is becoming more widely available and accessible in our society today. In a world in which they can’t hear danger and where they find themselves ostracized, teaching deaf children about the dangers and risks of everyday life and providing them with a means of communication is not just crucial for their education, but for their safety. There are numerous classes, schools and information available for your deaf child to receive an education on par with non-deaf children. However, while they’re not at school, it’s crucial for the education to continue at home.


Sign language is an effective way of teaching deaf children how to speak and interact with their peers who also know sign language. It involves making shapes and movements with the “speaker’s” hands and fingers. For example, the number 1 is demonstrated by holding one finger – the index finger – up. Teaching your deaf child sign language at an early age not only ingrains it in their heads for later life, but allows them to communicate from an earlier age. In fact, children as young as 6 months old can now learn the language, providing them with a way to express themselves to their parents and making them into a less anxious, happier child overall.

Auditory-Verbal Therapy. Image courtesy
Auditory-Verbal Therapy. Image courtesy is-learn.esc11

As a parent of a deaf child, you should also learn sign language and encourage your family to do so as well. This will allow you all to communicate with each other and instill the idea from a young age that your child is not abnormal and that being deaf shouldn’t hold them back from being themselves.


Once sign language has been taught to your child, educating them becomes infinitely easier, as communication and conversation is now possible. However, there are other methods of teaching your deaf child to read without sign language. The auditory-oral method, for example, works well with children who are hard of hearing and is where the child is taught to lip read. Sitting so that your child can see your mouth, sound out the words out clearly, while showing your child what they look like on the page. Get your child to then repeat the words back to you. Explain what the word means and how they’re used with the aid of sign language. Additionally, turn on the subtitles on your television so that you child can follow along films and shows, this will quicken their reading skills and allow them to join in on a family activity.


Once your child knows how to speak, with sign language, and read, educating them becomes a lot simpler. Visual cues are an effective method of teaching your child about, as it uses their sight, as well as the other skills they’ve learnt, to educate them on subjects they’ll need in later life, such as illness, sexual health matters, emergency contacts, numeracy and economics. Highlighting is a fantastic method of showing your child the important information they need to take in. Highlight important words, phrases and sections so that your child is aware of what they need to remember. Here, visual cues, such as pictures, diagrams, graphs and charts can also be immensely helpful in showing your child how certain aspects of what you’re teaching them work. Again, sign language is a handy tool in educating deaf children as you can explain fully what certain phrases or facts mean. Attending workshops is also useful in developing your skills as a teacher and parent of a deaf child. Using a combination of these methods will keep your child’s mind active and alert while you’re teaching them, as well as teach them key skills they can use in the future.

Deaf children have a right to an education, just like non-deaf children, but for them, it just takes a little more effort and a bit more communication. For parents of deaf children, as well as the children themselves, there’s an abundance of information available so that, between school and yourself, your child gets not only the best education that they can possibly get, but also the education that they deserve.

*title image courtesy NEA

Lily McCann is a healthcare writer who, previous to her career in freelancing, worked in various jobs within caring professions, aiming to help people develop healthier lifestyles. She now divides her time between her written work and making sure her burgeoning family are in the best possible health.


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