Some practical ideas from Frances Clark.

When 11-year-old Khush stepped out onto the stage at the House of Commons and read out his own story, his parents were full of pride. Khush had been diagnosed as profoundly deaf as a baby, and his parents didn’t know if he would be able to speak, let alone deliver a speech in front of a room full of MPs.

For deaf children to learn to listen and to speak, they need early access to all the sounds of speech through hearing technology, including hearing aids or cochlear implants. One of the ways that professionals can ensure that they have this access is by checking the ‘LING Sounds’. There are six of them: m, oo, ah, ee, sh and s. These were named after Daniel Ling, a Canadian Audiologist who developed the Auditory Verbal approach. They are like six keys across a keyboard and if a child can hear all of them, then we can assume that they can hear the other sounds in the speech spectrum too. Khush had his cochlear implants as a baby, and we worked with him at the charity Auditory Verbal UK, where our team would regularly check that he could hear the ‘LING Sounds’ by asking him to repeat them. Listening, and having access to all the sounds of speech, can be critical for literacy outcomes, and for families who choose an Auditory Verbal approach to communication for their deaf child, promoting learning through listening is crucial for their developing literacy skills. 

If you can, start early: early intervention is critical for children with hearing loss, there is a window for developing listening and speech which focuses on the period from birth to the age of three and a half. Parents can start by reading to their children from a young age and exposing them to a variety of books, stories and texts. Carol Flexer, an expert in Auditory Verbal Therapy and literacy, recommends that parents expose their children to twenty texts a day. This includes books, newspapers, signs, instructions, in fact, anything that exposes their child to text. 

■ Playing rhyming games.

Develop vocabulary and word meanings. Parents and caregivers provide their children with knowledge of the world by using many words that describe things, feelings, places and people. When parents use spoken language their child already understands and insert new words, they are expanding this knowledge and building a foundation for comprehension in literacy.

Develop phonological awareness. This is a critical component of literacy development and requires access to all the speech sounds. It refers to the ability to recognise and manipulate the sounds of language through listening. The stages of phonological awareness are typically developed in this order: rhythm and rhyme, parts of a word (putting syllables together or breaking words into syllables), recognising initial sounds in words, recognising final sounds in words, blending sounds in words, and manipulation of sounds in words (adding, deleting or substituting sounds). 

Children who are deaf may have difficulty developing phonological awareness skills because they have  less exposure to spoken language. Early intervention is again key in developing these skills and using nursery rhymes, playing rhyming games and clapping out syllables are some of the ways this can be developed. You can take traditional nursery rhymes and adapt them to be more personalised, or add in movement activities at the same time. Ensuring that the experiences are multisensory supports firmer foundations for learning. 

Make an Experience Book. To help children understand the relationship between reading and writing, make a book about their own experiences including photos and mementos. Write a sentence or story about each picture with the child and then read it back together.

Frances Clark
Author: Frances Clark

Frances Clark
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Frances Clark is a Senior Auditory Verbal Therapist and is the Clinical Lead for Auditory Verbal UK. Frances currently trains and mentors therapists working towards LSLS certification whilst working with families from across the UK and delivering training and presentations across the UK and abroad.


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