Many deaf youngsters can read the movement of an eyelid, or so it’s said.
Non-verbal communication and facial expressions are essential for deaf youngsters to decode what’s said by a speaker, whether it’s verbal or signed.
Visual information cues give the tone of what’s being said, as aural nuances aren’t always picked up and can be misunderstood.
Take the statement, “what did you do that for”.
This statement can be interpreted in a few ways, depending on the context.
A speaker asking this as a question ideally needs a questioning look on their face, or in their body language, to convey the meaning.
Alternatively, if the speaker asks this as an accusation, as in “what did you do that for!”, they must show their feelings.
If no visual cues are present, the youngster is unsure if the statement is a question, or an accusation, and is disadvantaged.
Visual cues allow a deaf youngster to ‘get’ the nuance of this specific statement and to respond without taking anything personally.
Eighty per cent of communication is non-verbal, whether we know it or not.
For deaf youngsters, verbal and non-verbal communication must match, or confusion can result. Remember, your facial expression is a large part of it!
Think about it – we use non-verbal communication several times every day:
- waving our hand to call a friend over
- putting a finger over our mouth to tell someone to be quiet
- telling someone to stop by holding a hand up
- shaking our head to convey disagreement
- nodding our head in agreement
Adding explanatory gestures to a conversation with a deaf person can make a real difference in communicating context, or nuance.
Otherwise, don’t be afraid to write things down with a pen and paper, or to type text into a mobile phone or onto a computer screen.