Communicating with your child

Communication with your child is fundamental to their development and the foundation of relationships, and essential for social interaction, friendships, play, learning and wellbeing.

Grace, a young girl, communicating with her father

And at Sense we know that being told that your child has, or could have, problems with their sight and hearing can cause parents to worry about communicating with their child.

But do remember that Sense is here to help. Our experience of supporting children, young people and their families has been developed over many years. This means we have wide experience of the impact of deafblindness and multi-sensory impairment.

Communication methods

Parents of a sensory impaired child are likely to find themselves becoming adept at a range of language and communication methods as they grow and explore the world together. Additionally, parents may also need to explore how they can best create a sensory environment, such as with multi-sensory toys, for their child.

While of course no two children are the same, many use a 'total communication' approach. This means using a number of methods together. So, for example, parents may learn that communicating with their child will involve using the voice in combination with gestures and preferred signs. It is important to remember too, that information comes through touch, smell, and sometimes taste, which the child can associate with a concept or activity.

Communication methods could include:

  • Gestures – taken from actions during an activity
  • Symbols, pictures and photos
  • Tactile symbols
  • Signs (such as British Sign Language)
  • Fingerspelling – where each letter has  a shape on the hand
  • Speech
  • Objects of reference – Where an object represents a familiar activity or concept. For example: a piece of soap-scented towelling may represent a bath
  • Technical aid (speech to Braille) or computer tablet

If you'd like to get in touch with us, our Children's Specialist Services or Advice and Support teams would be happy to hear from you.

You may also be interested to read about communication and congenital deafblindness, other methods of communicating with people who are deafblind, and further resources.


First published: Tuesday 4 November 2014
Updated: Tuesday 22 December 2015