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Supporting Deaf children

What is babbling and why is it important?

From birth, babies make sounds like laughing, crying, and cooing. These early sounds start to change from around five months of age when the range of sounds increases, and consonant and vowel sounds are linked together to produce syllables like bababa and deedee. This is called babbling.

Babbling is an early important stage in developing speech. It is a way that children practise making and co-ordinating the different movements needed for speech.

Sometimes children use babbling when they are trying to tell you something, for example, if your child points to a cat and says bababa you could interpret this by saying “there’s a cat”.  Interpreting your child’s message like this by your child the word will help to start building up their vocabulary.

Sometimes children babble to themselves and are not trying to send out a message. This is a way for them to practise making the different movements for speech. In this situation, it is good for the adult to imitate the babble. It shows that they are interested and may encourage the child to babble again.

So babbling is a very important early stage in speech and spoken language development. As the child develops, their babble becomes more complex and sounds like they are having a conversation. First words also start to appear.

Children who are deaf or have a hearing loss are often slower to produce speech sounds, develop babble and first words compared to other children. This is because they can miss out on hearing others talking to them and or cannot hear speech as clearly as children with normal hearing. In addition, often when deaf children develop babble it contains fewer sounds compared to hearing children

Encouraging your deaf child to make speech sounds and develop babble is a way of helping them in the first stages of talking.

What can I do to help my child start babbling and to increase the range of sounds in their babble?

It is essential that your child can hear people speaking to them and to hear speech around them. So, it is very important that deaf children wear their hearing aids or processors consistently (for those who have a cochlear implant) across the day. Even when this happens, deaf children frequently miss out on hearing others talking, for example, when there is background noise. Adults can make a big difference in the way they talk with their children to maximize how much speech they hear and how well they will be able develop their own babble and speech from this.

Some ideas for this are:

  • Imitate or interpret your child’s vocalisations as already described
  • Talk about what your child is doing or looking at rather than asking too many questions
  • Use short phrases and a sing songy voice as this will sound much more interesting
  • Keep pausing so that your child has an opportunity to try and copy you or vocalise for their speaking turn
  • Use gestures or  signs alongside your speech so what you are saying will be more meaningful
  • Get their attention before you start talking. Yyou may do this by initially saying their name or something like ‘look it’s a …..’
  • Try and minimize background noises as much as possible

As well as talking with your child across the day, here are some other good ways and times of providing lots of talking:



Sharing picture books

Look at books together, talking about what you can see. As before use short phrases, a sing songy voice, and keep pausing to encourage your child to join in. Its fine if your child keeps choosing the same book . Repetition is key.

Some books have little phrases that are used over and over again which can work really well.

Singing with your child

Any singing is good but songs and nursery rhymes with actions like ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ are particularly good. The rhythms of songs may sound interesting to your child and encourage them to join in.

Noisy play

Making animal, vehicle noises and other symbolic noises as part of the play for your child to hear is great way for adults to produce lots of different sounds and syllables which are a bit like babbling. For example, ba ba (sheep), moo (cow), nee nar (ambulance), woo woo (police car), bang bang (hammer), pop pop pop (bubbles), weeeee (slide).

As before, remember to pause so that your child can copy you if they choose, and use a sing songy voice which will sound more exciting and interesting.

When possible, position yourself so that your child can see your face. This will help them to link different sounds with different lip shapes. Again, repetition is key.

Words 'Jump, Jump, Jump'

Using useful words

Another good strategy is to use lots of useful words with your child in games and as part of the day like at snack time. These are words like –

“Ready Steady go!”



“Up up up”

“All gone”

“Push push”

Provide lots of repetition and use an excited voice. Remember to pause so that your child can join in if they choose. Lots of activities like bubbles, rolling a ball and cars are good ways of using the useful words lots of times.

Developing listening skills

Finally, encouraging your child to listen will help them to be more aware of sounds and speech around them. Draw their attention to sounds in the environment like someone banging on the door or a dog barking.

Sometimes call their name rather than getting their attention in other ways.

Play listening games. An easy listening game is for your child to respond to hearing a sound. You can use musical instruments and or words like ‘go ‘! For example, every time you say ‘go’ your child rolls a ball. Build this up so that you are positioned behind your child so that they can’t see your lips move, making it a purely listening activity.

And remember, have fun!

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL92

Resource Type: Article

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