Total Communication: Learning to Use Different Communication Methods
Read this page to learn what total communication is, and if it's right for your child.
What total communication (TC) is
- TC is a way of teaching children with hearing loss.
- TC encourages children with hearing loss to communicate with hearing people and each other.
- TC uses both seeing and hearing to communicate.
A child who is taught using total communication may learn many skills:
- Listening by using what hearing she has left
- Communicating with sign language
- Getting her ideas across with gestures and body language
- Understanding others through reading lips, listening and/or sign language
- Learning cued speech. Cued speech is a system of special handshapes and positions used when someone talks. It helps a person with hearing loss understand when someone speaks.
As a child's skills grow, she may switch from one way of communicating to another. For example, as a child learns to speak, she may use sign language less often so others can understand her better.
What happens in a TC program
All TC programs are not the same:
- In some TC programs, teachers and children always speak and sign at the same time. This is called simultaneous communication, or simcom.
- These programs encourage children to use the hearing they have left.
- These programs encourage children to talk and learn language.
- These programs usually follow a signing system based on English.
- In some TC programs, teachers emphasize learning language.
- Teachers may sign without speaking at the same time.
- Teachers may spend less time on using the hearing that is left and talking.
- These programs may use American Sign Language (ASL). ASL does not match spoken English.
How learning the total communication method affects children's lives
- TC gives children the tools they need to understand others. They also learn how to be understood at a very young age.
- TC makes communicating less frustrating.
- TC helps children learn by giving them language.
How to choose a program
Start with these questions when looking for a TC program:
- Do the teachers speak or sign, or both?
- If they sign, what kind of sign language do they use? Do they use ASL or English-based signs? How do you feel about their choices?
- Do all teachers use the same amount of speaking and signing?
- Do they have any services to help parents learn sign language?
- Do they have any services for other members of the family?
- How closely do parents and staff work together?
What other parents say
Read what other parents said about communication choices.
How to find a total communication program in your area
Call your local school district and any deaf schools in your area. They can tell you if there's a TC program near you.
Learn more about total communication
- Deaf Linx tells you about the good and bad points of total communication.
- ERIC Digests describes total communication. This page also gives you questions to ask when choosing a program.