University of Edinburgh

Moving Through

Home to pre-school

Language and communication

"Enjoy your child" (parent of pre-school child)

From the time a child is diagnosed as being deaf, parents have to make decisions about language and communication. Both deaf and hearing babies and toddlers are 'little linguists', capable of developing language at a very fast rate. As far as is known, deaf children have the same range of intelligence as hearing children. So, it is important that your baby is able to develop language at as normal a rate, and as naturally, as possible - whether that is through sign language and/or spoken language.

You will get advice from a team of local professionals, such as the paediatrician, teacher of the deaf, educational audiologist, speech and language therapist etc. There are also other sources of information such as voluntary organisations (eg; National Deaf Children's Society), books and websites. Sometimes, advice can be conflicting and it can feel a bit like a minefield.

"You feel stuck in the middle - what way do you turn?" (parent of pre-school child)

Other parents have said that it can really help to learn from parents who have been through the same experience:

"Everyone's got the same concerns; it's nice to see" (parent of pre-school child)

See Contacts for more information

Moving to nursery

By the time your child is three years old, they may already have attended a childminder and/or a playgroup. After they are three, they are entitled to a free place at a local authority nursery (or an approved voluntary or private nursery). This will be their first experience of an educational programme which has national guidelines - including the development of social skills.

You will probably want to visit a few places to get an idea of what is on offer, and it can be very useful to take a parent of an older deaf child with you. There are certain things which parents of all children will look for in a nursery, such as levels of safety and care, friendly atmosphere, reputation etc. But there will be additional features to look for when finding a place for your deaf child. For example:

  • Staff awareness of how to make learning and play accessible to your child;
  • How well your child's language development will be monitored (sign and/or spoken language);
  • How well staff will include your child with group play and monitor their socialising;
  • Size of groups;
  • Staff attitudes to your child's hearing loss (positive and realistic);
  • Special resources, where required.

It will be important to monitor how happy your child is and how well they are communicating with those around them. With all the preparation in the world, you won't know for sure whether it is right for your child until they have experienced the new nursery for a reasonable length of time. If you have any doubts, then do discuss them with people whom you trust to help. In addition to family and friends - and staff at the nursery of course - there are specialist professionals and other parents of deaf children who can give you advice and support.

Who can help?


You are likely to already have contact with a range of professionals, including the educational audiologist and a teacher of the deaf from the Ayrshire Hearing Impairment Service

At some point after your child is two, a more formal arrangement is put in place to help you make decisions about the move to nursery. Psychological Services convene meetings, which are known as the Pre-school Children's Assessment Team (PRESCAT) meetings. You are invited to attend these meetings, which aim to explore the full range of options and various levels of access/support available to your child.

West of Scotland Deaf Children's Society (WSDCS)
Parent Support Workers can share their knowledge and support you through the process of choosing a nursery. Again, the can put you in touch with other local parents who can share their experiences.

Further reading (see Further reading)

A Parent's guide to special educational needs

Deaf friendly nurseries and pre-schools

Helping your deaf child to learn