Early support for deaf children

Child with CI

British Sign Language and Bilingualism

BSL is a natural and visual language with its own grammar and vocabulary.  People who use BSL use the hands, face and body to communicate.  BSL users can develop language at a similar rate to spoken language development provided that they are exposed to sufficiently high quality input and interaction.  Therefore if parents are choosing this route they must be able to sign fluently and confidently with their babies.  There are BSL classes available locally for parents wishing to learn..

Social skills

Research by Young, Green and Rogers (2008)32 and Peterson, O’Reilly and Wellman (2016)33 has shown that children who have a hearing loss are at greater risk of experiencing social isolation, loneliness and difficulty with peer relationships.  Therefore, it is important that deaf children’s social skills are developed.

Partnership working

The general principles of working in partnership with parents are set out for England in the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (Department of Health et al, 2000) and the SEN Code

Newborn Hearing Screening Programme

The Newborn Hearing Screening Programme (NHSP) in the UK was introduced first in England from 2001, extending to Scotland in 2003, Wales in 2004 and Northern Ireland in 2005.  This roll out was based on the premise that outcomes for deaf children could be improved by early identification of hearing loss and effective, early intervention9,10.

Child with HA



Many families choose an oral/aural approach for their child as they are hearing themselves.  With support from their local services, their children access mainstream pre-school settings and develop natural speech through learning to listen. Early intervention, professionals and the family working together and the consistent use of the appropriate technology play a key part. There are several organisations who advocate their own specific oral/aural approach to communication.

The importance of Early Communication and language

There is a plethora of literature which details the ways in which any deficit or delay in children's language can be detrimental to their later achievements and their emotional wellbeing.  Research concerning deaf children emphasises this and the importance of being sure that the child is provided with sufficiently high quality input and interaction.

Early Intervention

By age three and a half, the human brain has completed 85% of its growth, making the first three years of life critical for optimal development (Suskind and Suskind, 2015). Early intervention is essential if we are to benefit from the investment into the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and advances in hearing technology. Deafness is not a learning disability.  The majority of children with hearing loss have the potential to reach the same educational outcomes as hearing children, if they have appropriate support.


Up to two of every thousand children born in the UK has hearing loss and around one in a thousand of these children will be severely to profoundly deaf1.  Estimates of the number of children with severe to profound hearing loss in the UK under the age of five years are between 6,4007 and 7,2008.


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