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Modes of Communication

The Hearing Impairment Team aims to enhance the educational opportunities of all children and young people who have needs relating to hearing impairment.

Developing good communication is vital to all children and their families. Fluent language skills are needed in order to understand and influence the world around them, by whichever approach is most appropriate for the individual child.

We aim to:

  • ensure that children have appropriate hearing aids, well maintained, so that they can use whatever hearing they have to the full
  • encourage children to develop good listening skills
  • emphasise the importance of meaningful communication and conversation
  • assist children and parents to develop sign language skills, where appropriate

Communication approaches

  • Auditory-oral approaches aim to develop listening skills and spoken language in deaf children. They emphasise the use of hearing aids, radio aids, cochlear implants and lipreading to maximise the use of any hearing a deaf child has. These approaches are used with children with all levels of deafness, from mild to profound and do not use sign language or fingerspelling to support the understanding of spoken language.
  • Total communication is an approach that involves children using different methods of communication at any one time. The idea is that sign language will not prevent but support oral communication and will develop the use of any residual hearing and speech and language skills. Signed English (SE), Signed Supported English (SSE), British Sign Language, natural gesture and speech may all be used.
  • Sign-bilingualism is when BSL is used as the main means of communication with English, or other languages, being taught as a separate language.

Sign systems

  • British Sign Language (BSL) is the language used by the Deaf community in Britain. It has its own vocabulary and grammar and includes the use of facial expression, body movement and lip patterns. It is not possible to use BSL and spoken English at the same time.
  • SSE Sign Supported English uses signs taken from BSL together with spoken English. English word order is used, with key words signed to aid communication.
  • Signed English is not a language in its own right, but a system developed to teach English grammar to deaf children. It uses BSL vocabulary in English word order, plus finger spelling and specific grammatical markers.
  • Makaton is a system of signs and symbols that was designed for teaching children with communication and learning disabilities. Many of the signs are taken from BSL.
  • The Hearing Impairment Team is committed to supporting parental choice in mode of communication and can advise on the different methods.

Do you want to learn British Sign Language:

Level 1 and Level 2 courses are run annually from September to July. The courses are based at Kimberworth Place.


Level 1- Students will learn basic signs, such as everyday signs, fingerspelling, BSL structure, aim and able to access to communication with the deaf/hearing impaired in public.

Level 2- Students will learn BSL at an intermediate based level, they will learn a more wide range of vocabulary, more understanding of how BSL is used and deaf culture, able to work and support deaf children in school.

For further information contact:

Tracey Lawton
Deaf Instructor for the Hearing Impairment Team