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Deaf community/SLP relationship

As a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) and the mother of a Deaf child, this is something I am incredibly passionate about. Throughout the years, a tense relationship between SLPs and the Deaf community has developed, and rightfully so. Some reasons for this are:


  • Audism - an attitude based on pathological thinking that results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear; like racism or sexism, audism judges, labels, and limits individuals on the basis of whether a person hears and speaks (Humphrey & Alcorn, 1995: 85).

  • Just because a child is deaf or hard-of-hearing, this does not mean they have a communication disorder

  • Feeling the need to be “fixed”

  • There is an emphasis on the “speech” component in Speech Language Pathologist

Benefits of speech therapy for deaf/hard-of-hearing children

As a Speech Language Pathologist, I truly believe SLPs have the best intentions but without awareness, those intentions can detrimentally impact and destroy what could have been a beneficial service for children. Here is why I think speech language therapy can be crucial for deaf and hard of hearing children, especially those born to hearing parents with little to no experience with ASL:


  • Educating family

  • ASL support

  • Connection to resources

  • Reading comprehension support

  • Vocabulary expansion

  • Advocacy support

Finding a Speech Language Pathologist

If it is determined your child will benefit from working with a Speech Language Pathologist, it is imperative that you find someone that is aligned with your child’s needs and your desired outcomes. Just with anything else, SLPs have different areas of interest, areas of expertise, and skill sets. Parents don’t always know this, but you have so much say in who your child works with. You not only have the right to interview the SLP but I believe it is necessary. Some important questions to ask are:


How will ASL be incorporated? It is important that you’re clear on what you want for your child. Do you want them to primarily use ASL? Do you want them to primarily use spoken language? Do you want your child to be fluent in both? Make sure that the SLP you’re talking with is not only receptive to what you want but has the skill set to implement it.


What are possible goals you would like to work on with my child? I feel vocabulary expansion (through pointing and labeling), following directions, and expressive language 1-2 word utterances are typically the best places to start.


How will advocacy be incorporated? Many individuals your child will interact with will have little to no experience interacting with a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual so they may not understand what your child needs to improve the environment and interaction. By increasing your child’s awareness of their needs and ability to advocate for those, you are increasing your child’s ability to navigate situations and improve their self-confidence.


Have you worked with a deaf or hard-of-hearing child before? If so, how did that work out? If not, are you willing to learn? As a professional, Speech Language Pathologists must take Continuing Education courses to maintain their license. If your Speech Language Pathologist has their “C’s” through ASHA, they must complete 30 hours of continuing education every 3 years. This may be a perfect opportunity for the professional your child is working with to learn more on how to best support your child’s needs to maximize their growth.

Deaf community

Pro-ASL Professional list

Below is a Pro-ASL professionals including Speech Language Pathologists across the United States and you can find that by clicking below. The list has been compiled by Language First and is organized by state.


As I've stated, I also own a pediatric speech language private practice office, Olive Speech Therapy, that services a variety of needs, including working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children in-person in New York State and remotely in North Carolina. You can learn more by clicking below.

If you need help navigating this or have additional questions, you can contact me here.

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