Communication tips

We use communication and language to form connections and relationships with family and friends. Good communication is important at any age but more so in the early years when your little one is acquiring their first language. 

Some Deaf people communicate using NZSL and some use spoken language, and some use multiple languages. Some Deaf and hard of hearing people wear listening devices (hearing aides and/or cochlear implants), some do not wear any listening devices. 


  • Communication and language are not the same thing. Whatever language you use as a whanau eg NZSL, Te Reo Māori, English or other spoken language – good communication will always be vital!
  • Play with your little one as much as possible. Children who play and are encouraged to use their imagination tend to be better language learners.
  • Share books with your little one – sharing familiar books is a great way for you to use your NZSL and for your little one to learn language and early literacy skills.
  • Sign/Talk about what your little one is looking at – follow their interests. 
  • Praise your little one when they respond or attempt to sign/talk to you.
  • Make sure there are lots of opportunities throughout the day to communicate. The more opportunities children have to communicate the better communicators they will be.



Here are some tips that will help you communicate easily with Deaf adults and youth:

Ask what their preference is for communication – do they prefer NZSL or to communicate via an NZSL Interpreter (it can vary depending on the size of the gathering, 1:1 vs large group gathering)

  • maintain eye contact
  • ensure your mouth is not covered
  • Deaf people are visual people
  • use gesture and facial expression but remember not to shout or over exaggerate your mouth patterns
  • use pen/paper or your device to communicate through written English
  • continue to learn NZSL from the Deaf community