Deaf and Hard of Hearing

What does Deaf, deaf, and hard of hearing mean?

‘Deaf’ (capitalised D) is used to describe individuals who use Australian Sign Language (Auslan) to communicate, and who identify as members of the signing Deaf community. Deaf people often do not consider themselves as ‘hearing impaired’. The Deaf community is more like a different ethnic group, with its own language and culture. Deaf people often interact with both Deaf and hearing communities.

In contrast to Deaf, the term ‘deaf’ (lower case d) is used to describe both the physical condition of not hearing, as well as people who are physically deaf but do not identify as members of the signing Deaf community (i.e. they do not communicate using Auslan).

‘Hard of hearing’ is used to describe individuals who have acquired a hearing loss in late childhood or adulthood, or who have a mild or moderate hearing loss. People who are hard of hearing typically use spoken language, lip-reading, and residual hearing (possibly with use of a hearing aid) to communicate. ‘Hearing impaired’ is also often used in Australia to describe people who are hard of hearing, but this is generally not the preferred term.

Using the wrong word to describe a person’s hearing can be offensive, so it is important to ask the child or their parent which group they identify with.

What might be some challenges on the footy field?

Kids who identify as Deaf, deaf, or hard of hearing may have different ways of communicating. On the footy field, these kids may not be able to hear spoken instructions well.

Get more information

  • Talk to the child or parent: Ask the child or parent what you can do to make communication as easy as possible. Ask them at the start of the season how they would like you to get their child’s attention when you speak.

Consider your communication style

  • Make sure kids can see your face when you talk: Kids who lip-read will understand instructions more easily if they can clearly see your face. Avoid standing with sun or bright light behind you, as this may put your face in shadow.
  • Encourage the child to stand where they can see and hear as much as possible: Ask the kid what works best for them. For example, this might be standing to one side of the coach, or it might be directly in front of you.
  • Get the child’s attention before speaking: If you are in the kid’s line of vision, use gestures (e.g. waving or beckoning) so they know you have something to say. It can also be appropriate to use light physical touch, like a tap on the arm or shoulder, to get a kid’s attention before speaking.
  • Limit background noise when giving instructions: Often kids will have some level of hearing. Reducing background noise will make it easier for them to hear instructions.
  • Speak clearly: Speak clearly, but do not shout or change the inflection of your speech. Be careful not to talk down to the child.
  • Simplify instructions and limit the amount of verbal information given: Make instructions simple. Try to limit instructions to 2-3 steps at a time.
  • Check in with the child to see if they have understood: Do this in a discrete way so that the child doesn’t feel singled out. Agree on this with the child at the start of the season. For example, you can ask the child to nod when they have understood instructions, or to put their hand on their shoulder if they have not understood.

Think about the activity

  • Have other kids wear earplugs: Consider doing activities where the other children wear earplugs, allowing all kids to participate in the same way and understand how it might feel to not be able to hear well. Let the child lead the activity!

Use visual aids to help communicate

  • Demonstrate new skills: Rather than relying on verbal instruction, you can demonstrate the new skills a child needs to learn.
  • Use visual instructions: Consider using a flip chart with visual instructions when you teach. You can also use a whiteboard to draw out movements, player positions, and activities on the field.
  • Use visual signs during game play and to start/stop activities: You can use gestures (e.g. simple raise or drop of an arm) together with a siren to indicate the start of an activity. You can use lights (e.g. green, red) or written signs (e.g. GO, STOP) to help indicate the start and end of an activity. Umpires can use gestures or flags as signs during game play.
  • Use a visual schedule and visual aids: Use a visual schedule that kids can see at all times so that they can easily transition from one activity to the next without having to be told instructions verbally. If keeping score during game play, show this visually (e.g. using a white board or score board).
  • Use a timer or clock: Use a large clock or timer that kids can see at all times to know when the session or activity will finish.

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