How Does Your Child Develop
More than 90% of deaf
children are born to hearing parents. Since the babies appear to be normal
and their developmental milestones are on track, detection of the hearing
loss is often delayed. Frequently, it is the mother's "gut feeling"
that something is wrong that first indicates hearing loss. Far too often
it is not given credence until it is pursued consistently.
The effects of a hearing
loss can be devastating or subtle, depending on the degree of loss. Normal
sound perception plays a critical role in our lives. In the womb we develop
listening to our mothers heartbeat and voice. Then we announce our arrival
into the world with our own crying voices. From there, we begin the association
of sounds to life. That sound provides the basis of our communication
and language development.
Early detection of
the hearing loss is vital to language development--the peak time being
before age 5. A hearing baby learns language, almost incidentally, by
listening. Consider how many times he has heard "water" before
he says it. A deaf baby must receive the same language input visually
before he can express it verbally or manually. Language development, social
growth and academic progress are closely interdependent in the deaf child.
Therefore the key to success for a deaf child is the development of a
language base, ideally through all modalities visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Language and speech
are often, mistakenly, considered one and the same. At this point it is
helpful to define language. Language is a system of symbols, in the brain,
representing objects, experiences, actions and feelings that can be recalled
and used to communicate. It provides a means through which perceptions
of the environment are organized. When a child understands he can manipulate
his environment with language, essential learning of one of life's most
essential skills, communication, has begun.
As deaf children do
not learn incidentally, language needs to be purposefully presented and
language experiences need to be ongoing. We need to structure the environment
for the utmost language input by relating on their level, through play
and daily living activities.
Bath time is a wonderful
opportunity for language. It is usually a pleasant experience and you
are one-on-one in close proximity. Some basic concepts that can be developed
are: the water is on or off, the water level is high or low, the child's
hand or foot is in or out of the water. A list of things needed to bathe
are: water, tub , soap, washcloth, towel, brush, faucet, drain and of
course the names of all of the tub toys. Then, describe the items: the
water is hot, warm, or cold; the soap is slippery; the wash cloth is dry,
wet, rough. This language experience may also be expanded to include the
A broad base of general
information is often lacking in deaf children, so it is important to begin
early to expand this base. Start with the word water. What kind of a vocabulary
list can be developed to include all of our associations? Make a book
of pictures cut from magazines of waterfall, ocean, lake, river, stream,
creek, pond, pool puddle, geyser, fountain, H2O, pour, drink, swim, wash,
rain, and shower.
Basic concepts are
fun to work on during play. Here is a list with which to begin: in/out,
on/off, under/over, up/ down, in front of/ behind, across, around, between,
with, middle, together, without or missing, long, short, tall, near or
Teaching your child
language concepts is an ongoing process. For best results:
- Choose one word
- Learn the sign
- Include the kinesthetic
modality and act it out. Example: get in the box, get in the car, go
in the house, get in the bed, get in the tub.
- Have toys be the
agents. Example: The ball is in the box. The doll is in the bed. The
blocks are in the wagon.
- Have the child
listen to the language and perform the concept correctly. Example: Put
the bear in the box. Put the crackers in the bag.)
- Have the child
use the language, and tell you. Example: Get in the car, or put the
ball in the box.
MEET YOUR PALSally Lonner received
her Bachelors Degree from the University of Washington. She holds the following
credentials: State of California Restricted Special Education Life Credential
for K-12 Speech and Hearing Therapy and the California Community College
Instructor Credential in Special Education. She has worked as a speech and
language specialist in a total communication program for deaf and hard of
hearing students for the last 22 years. Her students ranged from 18 months
to 12 years of age. She has also worked at the John Tracy clinic in their
deaf blind program and at a school for the physically handicapped. For the
last 12 years she has taught sign language at a local community college.
Sally has attended numerous workshops related to working with the deaf and
hard of hearing, including a language workshop with Daniel Ling. She has
also presented at the CALED (California Educators of the Deaf) conference.