Many children in Australia and around the world are born with permanent hearing loss. When parents are met with the diagnosis, they often experience not only overwhelming emotion, but also an overwhelming range of choices in terms of communication options. These communication options can be categorised into 4 main types of communication including: spoken language, cued speech, sign language, and total communication that each offer different benefits.
This communication type is chosen on the premise that if the hearing loss is identified early on and hearing devices and intervention are provided, then children can learn to listen and speak verbally as other normally hearing children do. Parents need to understand the importance of technology such as hearing aids and/or cochlear implants, and how they must be worn during all waking hours, even in the first few months when their child may be pulling them off.
This is essential, as a child needs to be exposed to sounds and language in order for them to develop the ability to understand and produce spoken language. Constant monitoring through regular hearing assessments is also crucial to ensure that the devices are functioning as they should and that the child is receiving the auditory input they require, even in the early years.
This option is a visual mode of communication in which the mouth movements of speech are combined with cues to help distinguish the sounds of spoken language more easily. Cued speech helps to make the speech sounds more visible as they are combined with eight hand shapes in four placements around the face. This improves speech and lip reading as well as literacy.
There are a number of different types of Sign Language. The most commonly used in Australia is Australian Sign Language (Auslan). Auslan is a complete, complex language that is different from English in that it has its own distinct pronunciation, word order and grammar. Auslan uses signs made up of hand movements, facial expressions, and postural changes to convey different messages.
Parents may choose to have Auslan as their child’s first language and English as their second language. In this case, if the parents themselves are not Deaf then they must learn Auslan themselves, and ensure that their child is surrounded by other children in the Deaf community so they are able to communicate with others that can speak Auslan. This avoids feelings of isolation in cases where the child is unable to use their language to communicate with anyone.
This is a term used to describe communication that is multimodal; it incorporates all means of communication such as signs, natural gestures, finger spelling, body language, facial expressions, listening, lip reading, and speech in order to optimize language development. Often children using Total Communication will wear technological devices to assist with hearing such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, and incorporate different modes of communication depending on what works best for the child and what each individual is capable of learning and using.
The decision of which communication option parents choose will determine how these children interact and communicate with others throughout their life. As such, it is important to review all the options in order to make an informed decision.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.