How to Communicate with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

Various Ways of Communicating

When most individuals think about communicating with deaf people, they think of sign language. What they may not know, however, is that there are different forms of sign language. Moreover, there are other communication options and methodologies, such as cued speech, auditory verbal communication, and lipreading.

Sign Language

In schools, there are two different ways to make use of sign language. Some educational programs use sign language in combination with speech, with the philosophy of using any method to teach and communicate. That is what's known as total communication. There are also schools that believe in using American Sign Language to teach English. That is called bilingual bicultural education. Many charter schools for the deaf operate with a bilingual bicultural philosophy.

Cued Speech

Speech and Lipreading

For me, even more important than the ability to speak is the ability to lipread (or speechread). It is an essential skill for a deaf or hard of hearing person because, when the battery in a hearing aid or cochlear implant dies (or the person is not wearing either), lipreading is often the only means available to communicate.

There is some disagreement as to whether lipreading is natural or taught.

No matter what communication method(s) are selected, in the case of children, it should be whatever works for the child. Some deaf and hard of hearing children are naturally oral, while others are naturally visual. Still others thrive with a combination of both.

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