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Communication support

What communication support can I get?

There are lots of different types of communication support available. Remember you don’t have to choose between these different types of support. You might need more than one of them at the same time, or you might find something else more helpful.

Support you can get in school or college

Teacher of the Deaf (ToD)

ToDs are specialist teachers who are qualified in deaf education. All deaf students should have a ToD to support them.

ToDs can support you in different ways like helping you catch up on information you might have missed in class, providing extra teaching or advising your school or college on what reasonable adjustments to make. If you don’t go to a deaf (or special) school, the amount of time a Teacher of the Deaf spends with you will depend on things like your level of deafness and how much support you need to learn.

They can work with you and your teachers to make sure your classroom is right for you. This could mean making sure that the lighting is good and that tables are facing the front of the room.

Teaching assistants/learning support assistants

Teaching assistants can provide you with support in the classroom, like explaining things you don’t understand or telling you if you’ve missed something. Sometimes they support you outside of the classroom too.

Communication support worker (CSW)

CSWs are like teaching assistants/learning support assistants, but they usually use British Sign Language (BSL). If a CSW can sign well they might translate what’s said in a class or lecture into BSL and if you sign, they will translate from BSL into spoken English.

They can also help your teachers to change lessons so that they are easier to understand, for example, by producing clear handouts.


Notetakers can write notes for you in classes or lectures so that you can focus on lip-reading or watching an interpreter. They’re normally used in colleges and universities rather than schools.

Electronic notetakers

Electronic notetakers are trained to type quickly so that you can read what’s being said. They don’t type out every word and sometimes will summarise what has been said.

Speech-To-Text Reporters or palantypists

They use a special keyboard to type very quickly every word that’s said in a class or lecture. They are expensive so aren’t used much in schools or colleges. This will be displayed on a laptop, projector or iPad screen in front of you.

Some speech-to-text reporters now provide ‘remote’ support. A remote reporter is different because they are not in the same room as you. They usually listen in to what’s being said through Skype or a teleconference phone. They then type what’s being said on a special web page that you can open using an iPad or a laptop.

British Sign language interpreter

BSL interpreters have been trained to use BSL at a high standard and have an interpreting qualification. They translate what’s said in a class or lecture into BSL and if you sign they will translate from BSL into spoken English. They aren’t used much in schools but some colleges and many universities will provide them.


A lipspeaker will sit facing you and will copy the words of the teacher or lecturer using unspoken word with clear lip patterns. They will also use facial expressions and gestures to communicate the meaning of what is being said.

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National Deaf Children's Society

Registered Charity: England and Wales (1016532) and Scotland (SC040779)

Helpline: 0808 800 8880

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