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How to Use ‘Total Communication’ When Educating Children with Hearing Loss

Total Communication is something we really believe in as a family of a deaf child, but what does it mean?

Total Communication (TC) is a philosophy of educating children with hearing loss, which incorporates all means of communication; formal signs, natural gestures, fingerspelling, body language, listening, lipreading and speech. Children in TC programs typically wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.

The original intent of the Total Communication philosophy was to provide each child with the communication tools needed for that child to develop language competence.  This should continue to be the goal of every teacher for every child.  However, the philosophy of Total Communication has often been over-simplified and has been confused with the Simultaneous Communication methodology that simply combines sign and spoken language. Sign and spoken language can be effectively combined, but parents and professionals need to be sure that language competence is being developed optimally taking into consideration the strengths and needs of the individual child. –

In simpler terms, we use speech, sign language, body language, natural gestures and lipreading to communicate with our son Harry. You may wonder why we use so many different methods of communicating. but we have found that this has been the best way for him to pick up speech with little frustration. It has also taught him to express himself not only through his voice but through his body language, and through sign.


We didn’t really make a decision, as such, to communicate with Harry in this way, we just knew that we wanted to make it as easy as possible for him to understand us. We obviously want him to be able to talk to us orally but, if he couldn’t pronounce a word or simply didn’t know it,we wanted him to be able to express himself to tell us what it is he wants to say.

Harry will often learn the sign for something long before he learns the word and we have found that has improved his frustrations so much, as he doesn’t struggle to tell us what he wants because he can almost ‘act it out’.



I am hoping that Harry will learn to finger spell alongside learning his alphabet as he gets older, as fingerspelling is another tool for total communication. I found the alphabet the easiest to learn of all the sign language, and it helped me so much when it came to learning some of the more complex signs.


I would love to hear your thoughts on total communication and whether you use it with your deaf child. Please let me know in the comments section.


Author Details
Lucie is a lifestyle blogger and mother living in Hampshire, United Kingdom. She is the mother of Harry, 4 years old, who is profoundly deaf and a bilateral user of cochlear implants from Advanced Bionics. She loves to drink tea, cozy nights with her family and go on Pinterest!