Increasing Literacy Skills with Your Deaf Infant

  • Communicating with your child is the foundation of reading. It is never too early to communicate with your child, especially if they are deaf or hard of hearing. Very young infants may not be able to use words, but they can communicate. Babies communicate when they cry, babble, kick, wiggle, and smile. Wait for your child to pay attention to you before you try to communicate with them. It can be very hard to wait, but, when you do, you can get good results. An effective communicator is patient. Your baby’s attention cannot be forced but it can be won!
  • Keep eye contact. Always respond when you get your child’s eye contact. Smile, talk, sign.
  • Use facial expressions to communicate. Use your face as an extra voice. Facially express love, concern, surprise, and excitement. Try tasting foods. Make faces. Frown if a food tastes bitter. Smile if you like the food. Interesting facial expressions will help keep Baby’s attention. Look in the mirror together and make faces.
  • Take turns with your child. Let your child take the time they need to babble. When your baby makes sounds, wait your turn, and then imitate theirsounds.
  • Be observant. Look for your baby’s response and build on it.
  • Follow your child’s lead. You don’t have to teach language; just talk to your baby about their immediate interests.
  • Be sure your child can see what you say and sign. If your baby is on the floor, get on the floor with them; if your baby is in their carriage, bend over and look into the carriage.
  • Having fun together is a wonderful way to share effective communication. Play games with expressive body and facial expressions like: Pat-A-Cake, Peek-A-Boo, and So-O-Big. Your baby may not understand all your worlds, but they will understand your smiles, laughs, and playfulness.
  • Playing with toys provides an opportunity to expand vocabulary. Give your baby words for different concepts like big and small. If your infant is looking at a crib toy say and sign, “look at the bird, the bird is yellow.” Sign and say things again and again and again. Repetition is very important.
  • Make a scrapbook of your baby’s favorite people and things. Talk and sign about the pictures that interest your infant. Be expressive, keep eye contact, then, pause long enough for your child to take a turn responding. Wait your turn to talk and sign.
  • Any place can be a place for effective communication. Talk and sign in the bedroom, in the car, at the supermarket, at the doctor’s office, and in the yard. Most of all have fun with books! Your baby’s first experiences with books, pictures, and printed words will influence their reading development later on.