Communicating with your baby
Source: National Deaf Children's Society
When your child is very young, communication happens when you are cuddling, caring for or playing with them. This can involve using words, sounds, gestures, touches, facial expressions, hugs and games - this is the same for deaf and hearing babies.
It is important that you communicate in a way that feels natural and comfortable for you.
During the first seven to nine months of life, babies are learning how to pay attention to those around them and how to take part in social routines with others.
This early development is a main building block for communication. Interaction we think of as ‘baby games’ is essential for getting communication started.
Some tips that can help you to start communicating effectively with your baby are as follows.
When your baby is crying they can be saying ‘I'm hungry’ or ‘my nappy needs to be changed’.
From the earliest days, babies pay attention to important voices. They discover their own voices and play with sounds in squeals, grunts, coos and gurgles. Later on, babies discover that they can join sounds together to babble. Babies can also start to join hand movements together to create hand babble. When babies start to point or reach, these gestures may mean ‘I want that’ or ‘look at me’.
You and the other members of your family can help to get communication started by following two simple guidelines – recognise your baby’s attempts to communicate and respond to those attempts. You are likely to be doing this naturally.
You can recognise your baby’s attempts to communicate by being aware of their facial expressions, the way they move their body or the noises they make. These attempts may include:
Take some time to observe your baby – it will help you to communicate well. Some of the questions you can ask yourself are as follows.
Responding to your baby also shows that communication is a two-way process and that it is important to take turns. Babies love to communicate. Because your deaf baby may find it difficult to hear you, you may have to try some different ways to make sure that communication remains effective.
If your baby is learning to use hearing aids, try to stay close, use a pleasant but clear voice, and talk about what your baby has been communicating to you. You should try to stay where the baby is facing, look at what the baby looks at, match the baby's facial expression, and use simple gestures.
The most important point is to be sure that your baby knows that you have responded.
This will help your baby to begin to predict that you will respond. That makes conversations exciting for both of you. The words, gestures or signs will come in time.
Tiny babies make lots of funny sounds. It is not always clear how to answer. As a parent, you have many ways of showing your baby approval and support. You can:
Information supplied by The National Deaf Children's Society
Reproduced with permission.
Date reviewed: 22.11.2008
Disclaimer: This website is for general information only and is not intended as a substitute for independent professional advice.