In Brazil there are no specific tests for either signed or spoken language for deaf children. A protocol evaluating communicative abilities independent of modality of communication (sign language or spoken language), and comprising assessments of (a) pragmatic profile; (b) modality of communication and linguistic level; (c) complexity of communication; and (d) style and efficacy of communication between parent and child was administered to 127 deaf and hearing children. The children, aged 3–6 years old, were distributed in three groups: 20 with severe hearing loss, 40 with profound hearing loss and 67 normally hearing. Deaf children were found to be delayed, independent of their linguistic level and preferred modality of communication. The protocol in this study proved to be an useful instrument for gathering relevant information about the three groups of preschool children's communicative abilities, and particularly suitable for use in countries where standardized assessments are not available.