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First Signs provides families with deaf and hard of hearing children with real opportunities to include New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) as an additional language in their home.

One of the wonderful aspects of our service is that eligibility is not based on an audiogram, use of assistive listening devices or home language. Our service is about connecting families to a language that is accessible to all children.

When a child is identified as deaf or hard of hearing, Advisors on Deaf Children (AODC) from the Ministry of Education work with the child’s family to navigate the path of their new journey. Each family will be introduced to many opportunities available to them, one of which is the opportunity to learn NZSL through the First Signs service.

The First Signs team and the AODC work with each family to establish goals. The First Signs service has a number of components and families can choose the aspects that meet their needs throughout their time with our service. The service is available throughout the preschool years for deaf and hard of hearing children between 0-5 years of age.

  • Home visits: Weekly or fortnightly sessions in the home with the family and the NZSL Facilitator with a focus on family-centred learning. The home visits are flexible in nature. They can take place at the grandparents’ home, or even the park!
  • Monthly get-togethers: Coffee mornings, play dates, excursions, etc. They bring together Deaf parents, hearing parents, deaf children and hearing children and provide opportunities for parents and children to be with a variety of NZSL users. It enables children to meet friends and ‘overhear’ conversations in NZSL. It enables families to relax, interact with each other and see Deaf adults leading happy and successful lives.
  • Evening presentations: These will be workshops and presentations in NZSL for parents on topics that are relevant to them. For example a ‘Dads’ evening’, ‘Mums’ evening’, etc.

The Ministry of Education have contracted Deaf Aotearoa to provide the First Signs service to families. We employ confident and articulate Deaf adults who have proficient NZSL skills and the ability to work alongside families to develop language in the home.

First Signs is a family-centred service that will meet families where they are and work on language that is relevant to them. We are committed to providing opportunities and empowering families and whanau with deaf or hard of hearing children to embrace NZSL as an additional language in their homes and communities.

Our service is currently available in Wellington and South Auckland. Contact us for more information.

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