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Deaf Education Options Guide

Total Communication Educational Approach


Total Communication (TC) is an educational philosophy. “Total Communication can best be defined as eclectic, borrowing techniques form a variety of different methods.”110 Ideally teachers can use sign, writing, mime, speech, pictures or any other communication method that works. The method of communication should depend upon the needs of the student and the situation. In actual practice, most Total Communication programs use some form of Simultaneous Communication. Children are encouraged to work on speech and listening skills. “All children are encouraged to develop skill in all areas (sign language, speech and audition), although children are allowed to develop a mode of communication that is best for them.”111


A benefit of Total Communication is that it can provide a “safety net” for children who have difficulty following oral methods by using English that is supported by sign. It also allows the child some form of expressive communication.


One of the big disadvantages associated with Total Communication is that it tends to limit a child’s language experience. Children are never exposed to complex English or complex ASL. 112 “Dumbing down” both languages prevents children from attaining fluency in either language.

This document was posted with permission from the author, based on the posting at http://www.listen-up.org/edu/options1.htm. Although this 1998 article remains informative, it is vital that readers do current research.

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