5 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Deaf Children Through Routines and Consistency
Deaf adults who grew up in hearing families often talk about their lives as young children being a blur because they never knew what was happening or why. Being herded around and gestured to without proper communication are commonly reported.
You may have heard the old saying, "chaos breeds discontent." It’s true. Children thrive on a routine and consistency in their lives. For many young children, the beginning of their school career is the first time they are exposed to a schedule and have to follow a routine. The transition may be difficult in the beginning, but before long most children have settled into this new way of life and feel comfortable because the routine helps them to know what to expect.
The same thing holds true for deaf children, maybe even more so. Many deaf children are born into families where communication is a struggle and if the household lacks routine, the child may have more difficulties understanding what’s going on. This is where routines and consistency will be helpful for them. Routines and consistency also help with reinforcing language and vocabulary learning, as well as concept development.
Here are 5 tips to help with creating a language rich environment through routine and consistency:
1. Eat at the dinner table with the family as often as possible.
Set a realistic goal of eating dinner together as often as you can. While at the dinner table, take advantage of the "captive audience" by asking questions and getting them talking/signing.
2. Read at least one book a night to your child.
Read at least one book a night even if in the beginning it only consists of looking through the book and doing signs here and there for the various pictures. You can create wordlists on Signing Savvy to go along with the books to help you and your child learn the signs from the book. Your child’s teacher can help with this also.
Also see our article on Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children
3. Communicate daily with your child’s teacher.
If your child is in school (or daycare), ask the teacher for topics discussed and activities conducted each day so that you can review them with your child before bed. This is great example of an activity to help expand you and your child's vocabulary. Signing Savvy's ability to look up signs and create shared word lists, especially if done in collaboration with the teacher, can assist with this routine.
4. Create a schedule with signs.
Creating a schedule helps to give your deaf child a clear idea of what will be happening throughout their day. When creating the schedule, include pictures, words, and signs (you can print signs from Signing Savvy).
Signing Savvy Member Feature: Download this image / flyer as a printable PDF page.
5. Have your child write about their day.
Have your child keep a special notebook or journal where they write about their day. "Writing" in the journal can consist of pictures, words, signs, and/or shadow writing through parents as helpers. This is a great way to create memories, brainstorm things to talk about, and go back to read what they wrote so they can reflect on their week. The journal can also be shown and shared with others.
To get started, any notebook will do, but if you are looking for a journal with questions and prompts to help get your child writing and doodling, here are some you could try.
Starter Journals for Younger Children (4 - 8 years old):
Doodle Books for tweens and teens (8 - 16 years old):
The key with any of these suggestions is to be consistent. Consistent, predictable routines with language can help make their world a "clearer" one.
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