Allen, T. E., and Enns, C. (2013). A psychometric study of the ASL receptive skills test when administered to deaf 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children. Sign Language Studies. 14(1).
The authors of this article reported the results of the ASL Receptive Skills Test (ASL-RST), adapted from the British Sign Language (BSL) Receptive Skills Test, as a valid and reliable measure for monitoring the progress of children acquiring sign language. Results showed the ASL-RST can be used to measure grammatical knowledge of ASL for developing signers at a young age. Children (various Ns were reported) at ages 3, 4 and 5 years and who had been exposed to ASL by the age of 3 years were included. All of the children had nonverbal IQs of at least 70. Some of the children had hearing parents while others were from deaf parents. The authors state the test is not intended to be a diagnostic tool, but rather a measure of a child’s ASL skill acquisition. The most important finding of this study is the confirmation that parent input is critical to language acquisition. The authors found children of deaf parents had significantly higher scores than those with hearing parents who did not use ASL--which is an expected outcome given the purpose of the test was to measure the acquisition of ASL. However, the authors extrapolate the data and state that their findings prove and confirm the importance of early exposure to ASL even though the results only demonstrate that receptive ASL can be measured.
Allen, T. E., Letteri, A., Choi, S. H., & Dang, D. (2014). Early Visual Language Exposure and Emergent Literacy in Preschool Deaf Children: Findings From a National Longitudinal Study. American Annals of the Deaf, 159(4), 346-358. doi:10.1353/aad.2014.0030
In this article, the results of four (4) analyses of data from the Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) Early Education Longitudinal Study are reported. Using the results from a battery of tests administered to 251 children, along with parent and teacher surveys, the authors found that young deaf children from signing families performed well on measures of fingerspelling and letter-writing ability, language skill and social adjustment, early visual language, sustained attention, and parental ratings of early cognitive and communication milestones. These findings corroborate conclusions drawn from other studies that early language is important for an array of outcomes that contribute to school success. The performance of deaf children of deaf signing parents was similar to that of the hearing controls (i.e., hearing children of hearing parents). The authors acknowledge that the failure of deaf children of hearing parents who sign to maintain their advantage over deaf children of parents who do not sign can be attributed to less sign language ability or to a reduced amount of signing in the home. Thus, parental fluency and consistent use of sign language is critical for successful child outcomes for receptive and expressive sign language. The authors conclude that the critical ingredient for acquiring skills necessary for reading comprehension is “early exposure to a language, whether auditory or visual, during the critical period of development, i.e., the first three years of life, when the brain is most capable of learning the sublexical components of language and the rules governing their combinations into words.”
Ginsborg, J. (2006). The effects of socioeconomic status on children’s language acquisition and use. Chapter from Language and Social Disadvantage: Theory into Practice, Edited by J. Clegg and J. Ginsborg. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Retrieved from https://researchgate.net/publication/237448474.
Children from low SES backgrounds are significantly more likely to demonstrate a moderate or severe expressive language delay resulting in academic underachievement and causing social and cognitive disadvantage. This author explains that family income is a better predictor of both nonverbal and verbal intelligence than are ethnicity, maternal education and whether a child resides in a one or two-parent home. Although all of the crucial aspects of mother-child interactions are yet to be identified, the quantity of speech addressed to and with children is a significant factor for the successful acquisition of language. Mothers from low SES background were found to have a tendency to use more directive speech (e.g, “put on your shoes” or “eat your lunch”) and prohibitions (“don’t do that” or “ no”) than did mothers from high SES backgrounds. Directive speech is typically one-way in nature, e.g., get your shoes; eat your vegetables; go to bed, and does not encourage or facilitate conversation, exchanges, turn taking and other important language development activities. Findings from other research studies of mother-child language interactions where the child is deaf or hard of hearing are discussed. According to the author, there are some studies that indicate the mothers of children who are deaf or hard of hearing tend to use more directive speech, regardless of SES than did those of typically hearing children. It is therefore important that teachers, interventionists and language therapists working with children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their parents, must provide education and support to help the mothers learn to use child-directed conversation.
Humphries, T., Kushalnagar, P., Mathur, G., Napoli, D., Padden, C., and Rathmann, C. (2014). Ensuring language acquisition for deaf children: What linguists can do. Language, 90(2), e31-e52. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.co.wake.nc.us/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1563976782?accountid=14867
The authors of this article argue that deaf children should be taught a sign language in early years. Evidence they present to support this position comes from bilingual research with spoken languages. However, it is used here as evidence for a bilingual bimodal approach to language development for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. As these authors state both “sign language and spoken language provide normal pathways to language acquisition, evidence for which is often disregarded.” Because first language acquisition occurs naturally and successfully during the first few years of life the authors recommend that all deaf newborns and newly deafened small children learn a sign language, regardless of whether or not they receive a cochlear implant or hearing aid. This recommendation, however, does not take into account the fact that 95% of children who are born DHH are born to hearing parents--parents who use spoken language. In order for these parents to raise their children using a sign language the parents would need to become fluent, or at the least proficient, in the language in order to model and facilitate their child’s acquisition of the sign language. This expectation is unrealistic.
Additionally, the authors state that the child’s entire family must learn sign language. Further, parents must provide opportunities for their children to interact with other deaf signing children and adults “frequently.” They must seek out other families, may be required to drive substantial distances to attend sign language classes, must be resourceful, should find deaf camps for their children to attend and seek out information on the Internet. According to the authors:
“Family responsibilities can be costly in a number of ways beyond money and time. Using sign language can hinder family dynamics and learning a sign language can be beyond the abilities of some family members, particularly older ones. However, every deaf child is entitled to be recognized and accepted as deaf and to develop their own identity as a deaf person. Sign language is a right.”
Humphries, T., Kushalnagar, P., Mathur, G., Napoli, D., Padden, C., Rathmann, C., & Smith, S. R. (2012). Language acquisition for deaf children: Reducing the harms of zero tolerance to the use of alternative approaches. Harm Reduction Journal, 9(1), 16. doi:10.1186/1477-7517-9-16
These authors argue that cochlear implants (CI), which have become the standard of care for deaf children in developing countries, harm most children because the children are not exposed to sign language. Lack of exposure to sign language, they argue, harms the children and causes linguistic deprivation as they believe sign language to be the primary and most appropriate language for deaf children. They go on to state that the harms from cochlear implantation of children extend to society because of the failure of children to acquire appropriate language resulting in academic failure and later dependence on social systems for lifelong support. No study has yet shown, according to these authors, that a congenitally deaf child learns spoken language by means of the implant so that he/she can cope with normal communication outside the laboratory.
Medical professionals are identified as being responsible for failing to inform parents that a visual route to language and literacy is an option to a cochlear implant. Further, there are surgical risks associated with receiving an implant--risks these authors say are increasing though no data are provided. The following remedies for these harms are offered:
- Recommend sign language to parents.
- Adjust expectations for cochlear implants.
- Coordinate delivery of medical services to the deaf child across relevant health professionals.
- Study successful CI users and learn how to better predict for whom a CI will be successful (this requires agreement on standards of success).
The views presented in this article are frequently offered to support the recommendations that children who are deaf must be raised using signed language, such as ASL, if they are to experience academic and life success. This position has not yet been supported by scientific research and there is significant evidence that this belief is in fact not true.
Lederberg, A. R., Schick, B., & Spencer, P. E. (2012, July 30). Language and Literacy Development of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children: Success and Challenges. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1037/a0029558
Children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) develop sign language in a manner that is similar to the way hearing children develop spoken language, provided they are in a language-rich environment with fluent language models. The characteristics of this environment affect development. Children who are DHH and who have signing deaf parents (about 5%) are typically surrounded by deaf adults and children who use sign language and thus learn the language through natural interactive experiences. Children who are DHH and who have hearing parents (about 95%) require various kinds of supports to provide their children with accessible visual or spoken languages. For example, hearing parents who want to raise their child using a visual language (e.g., ASL) must become fluent in the language and create opportunities for their child and family to interact with other children and adults who use the same language. The majority of hearing parents today choose to raise their children using a spoken language. Their children may need technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, to enhance their auditory pathways so he/she can acquire the spoken language of the home. Parental fluency and the presence of other adults and children who use the chosen language clearly influence the rate and patterns of learning the language. One of the most significant factors predicting successful language acquisition for children is parent involvement.
A larger proportion of children today who are DHH are acquiring spoken language within age ranges typical for hearing children when compared to children in the past.
Good language skills in a first language are essential for reading success.
Lyness, C. R., Woll, B., Campbell, R., and Cardin, V. (2013). How does visual language affect crossmodal plasticity and cochlear implant success? Neuroscience Biobehavioral Review. 37(10), 2621-2630. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.08.011
This article reviews evidence of the effect of visual languages on neural function in deaf children and their relation to cochlear implant (CI) success. The authors propose that children who are congenitally deaf must be exposed to a visual language, e.g., ASL, early in life during the sensitive period for language learning. If this opportunity is missed, these children may experience poor long-term language outcomes in any language (signed or spoken) even with the presence of residual auditory plasticity. Therefore, children should be exposed to both visual and spoken languages pre- and post-implant to ensure the best possible language outcomes according to these authors. The authors purport that no study of neural function prior to implantation has systematically measured proficiency in visual language and its relation to outcomes following CI. Thus, they say it is “hazardous” to draw conclusions or make generalizations about the role of visual language in CI success meaning it should not be discounted. They go on to support their position by citing “evidence” from studies of deaf children of deaf parents who learned sign language during the critical period for language acquisition and who outperformed deaf children of hearing parents following CI on measures of auditory language skills.
What is missing from the ”evidence” that is offered is outcome data for deaf children of hearing parents. The evidence they do offer confirms that children who are exposed to the language of their parents, home and community during the critical period for language acquisition are more likely to acquire a solid language foundation than are children who are raised to use a language that is not the language of their parents, the home or the community in which they live.
National Association of the Deaf (Adopted 2014). Position statement on early cognitive and language development and education of deaf and hard of hearing children. Retrieved from https://www.nad.org/about-us/position-statements/position-statement-on-early-cognitive-and-language-development-and-education-of-deaf-and-hard-of-hearing-children/
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) encourages the development of legislation to ensure age appropriate language acquisition and development for every child who is deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) beginning at birth. Further, it is the responsibility of government agencies at federal and state levels to develop safeguards to ensure every child who is DHH is progressing on a developmental path commensurate with children who hear.
According to NAD, improvement in the education of children who are DHH lies in early exposure and development of signed language fluency. Lack of exposure to sign language has resulted in “language deprivation” and is the result of a child not receiving sufficient language input to acquire or learn any language. This outcome is a significant problem attributed to the emphasis on spoken language rather than sign language.
Petitto, L. A., Langdon, C., Stone, A., Andriola, D., Kartheiser, G., and Cochran, C. (2016) Visual sign phonology: Insights into human reading and language from a natural soundless phonology. Cognitive Science. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1404
According to these authors, the crucial link for early reading success is not between segmental sounds and print but rather to the brain’s capacity to segment, categorize, and discern linguistic patterning, making it possible for early learners to segment all languages, including signed languages. A model of “visual sign phonology” (VSP) is presented and discussed in this article and the authors offer the model as a way to facilitate reading for all children--hearing and deaf.
The VSP model is based on the philosophy that phonological capacity (breaking a word down into its component parts) is built from the brain’s segmentation, categorization, and pattern-discerning capacities and constitutes the essential capacities from which all human phonology arises. Sound is not necessary for these capacities to mature as it is the natural patterning of language experienced in rich, socially-contingent linguistic interactions experienced in the first months of life that are key. Research supporting the model from developmental psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience and reading are briefly discussed.
Four predictions (i.e., outcomes) of VSP are offered.
- Deaf children with VSP exposure will develop VSP knowledge.
- All children who are deaf or hard of hearing with early VSP exposure will show fundamental advantages in reading compared to those without early VSP exposure. Deaf signers from deaf parents are more than twice as likely to be skilled readers than deaf signers from hearing parents. Late exposed signers will have weaker reading skills than early signers because their weaker phonological segmentation abilities impede reading processes.
- Children (deaf and hearing) receiving both speech and sign training will gain powerful bilingual language processing advantages involving the brain’s capacity to segment and categorize the linguistic stream that has been observed in young bilinguals acquiring two spoken languages. (NOTE: It has not been proven that the findings from research on bilingual children who use two spoken language are applicable to bilingual-bimodal children.)
- Hearing children with select reading difficulties will benefit from visual segmentation training in VSP.
The statements and proofs offered here are extrapolations using ideas and concepts to draw conclusions based on theory. Until scientific studies are conducted to test these hypotheses empirically, this model can only be considered theoretical.
Ambrose, S. E., Walker, E. A., Unflat-Berry, L. M., Oleson, J. J., and Moeller, M. P. (2015). Quantity and quality of caregivers’ linguistic input to 18-month and 3-year-old children who are hard of hearing. Ear and Hearing, 36, 48S-59S.
The linguistic input provided by caregivers is the most important element of a child’s early language environment. The quantity and quality of the input is important, as is the ability of the child to access and process the linguistic input they are provided. For children who are hard of hearing, access to language is critical. These authors compared the quality and quantity of linguistic input for children diagnosed as hard of hearing with that of same age hearing peers. Children were assessed at 18 months and again at 3 years of age. Quantity of input was found to be more stable over time than was the quality of the input. For example, caregivers who provided children with the least complex input in the early years continued to provide less complex input as the child aged. Additionally, children with greater degrees of hearing loss were exposed to both poorer quantity and quality input presumably because the caregivers found it more challenging to communicate with them and so they did not. Additionally, the language used by caregivers with children who had greater degrees of hearing loss tended to be directive (e.g., saying “get your shoes” while pointing to the shoes) than conversational. These findings support the need to coach caregivers to provide higher amounts of quality linguistic input and to adopt a conversational, rather than directive style.
Bell, A., & Houston, K. T. (2014). Red Flags: Barriers to Listening and Spoken Language in Children with Hearing Loss. Perspectives on Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood, 24(1), 11. doi:10.1044/hhdc24.1.11
There are many variables that impact optimal auditory development for children who are deaf or hard of hearing so that they are able to acquire spoken language, such as age at amplification, optimally fit hearing aids or cochlear implants in good working order, auditory training, child expectations and parental involvement. Clinicians must carefully monitor each of these variables to ensure a child will successfully learn to hear and talk. These authors suggest that clinicians must consider anything that interferes with the goal of hearing and talking be considered a “red flag” and offer suggestions for refocusing on the goal.
Child Expectations: Children with hearing loss should be compared to typically developing hearing peers and clinicians must continually monitor progress towards developmental and communicative milestones. When a child’s progress falls too far behind same age peers with typical hearing (e.g., 6 months) progress should be “red flagged” and appropriate steps taken to close this gap.
Parent Engagement: Parents must be engaged and actively participate in their child’s intervention. Lack of parental engagement is a major “red flag” and requires a commitment on the part of interventionists to learn to embrace parent participation as a key element of their intervention. Because few professionals are skilled at structuring their habilitation with the intentional goal of involving parents and other members of a child’s family, training must be provided to improve the skills of clinicians to engage parents.
Hearing Technology and Audition: Another potential “red flag” is the use of audition continuously throughout a child’s day. This includes more than simply wearing hearing technology. Children must be expected to listen and to master all developmentally age-appropriate targets. In order for this to happen, hearing technology must be appropriately fit and be in good functional working condition.
Bergeson-Dana, T. R. (2012). Spoken language development in infants who are deaf or hard of hearing: The role of maternal infant-directed speech. Volta Review, 112(2), 171-180. Retrieved April 18, 2017, fromhttp://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.co.wake.nc.us/docview/1492958553/fulltextPDF/3B6D04852D304984PQ/1?accountid=14867
One of the most important factors determining infants’ benefit and success in spoken language development via amplification is early auditory experiences from infant interactions with caregivers, i.e., infant-directed speech. This author examined whether children with congenital hearing loss who had hearing aids or cochlear implants responded to infant-directed speech in the same way as children with typical hearing. Using research from the Babytalk Research Laboratory this author found that infants with typical hearing preferred infant-directed rather than adult-directed speech. Infants with mild-to-moderate hearing loss also preferred infant directed-speech, though it took them a little longer to develop their preference. Infants with cochlear implants did not show a preference for infant-directed speech over adult-directed speech until 9 to 12 months post implantation. Although more research is needed, these findings have implications for caregiver-infant interactions and spoken language development. If an infant does not appear to be paying active attention to a caregiver’s attempt to entertain or soothe them using infant-directed speech, will they continue to try? Or will they change their speech? Parents must be coached and guided to use infant-directed speech and adapt their interactions as needed, for example using repetition.
Blaiser, K. and Muñoz, K. (2009) Collaboration/accelerating outcomes. Presentation at ASHA convention, New Orleans, LA.
Collaboration among professionals and parents actively working to teach children to listen and talk from an early age is critical to their success. Primary care physicians, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, early interventionists, and parents must work together to ensure optimal outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing to teach a child to listen and talk. Professionals must work with parents to teach them the skills necessary to ensure continuous access to hearing for their children.
Ching, T. Y. C., (2015) Is early intervention effective in improving spoken language outcomes of children with congenital hearing loss? American Journal of Audiology. 24, 345-348
Research findings from the Longitudinal Outcomes of Children With Hearing Impairment (LOCHI) study were presented in this article about the effectiveness of early intervention for improving outcomes of children with congenital hearing loss. This study included 451 children diagnosed with a hearing loss who had accessed pediatric hearing services by the age of three. Children were assessed on speech, language, and psychosocial outcomes at 6 and 12 months following initial hearing aid amplification or CI and again at chronological ages 3 and 5 years. Children were categorized according to communication mode as reported by parents--oral, manual, or combined. At 3 years, the children in the study scored below the normative populations on global English language development. Severity of hearing loss, gender, presence of additional disabilities, maternal education, and age at CI significantly influenced outcomes. By 5 years of age, there was clear and strong evidence that intervention at an early age was associated with better outcomes. Higher maternal education, use of an oral mode of communication, and the absence of additional disabilities were also significantly linked to higher language scores. This study provides evidence of the effectiveness of early intervention for improving outcomes of children with hearing loss. Additionally, findings revealed that it may be necessary to implement strategies targeting the development of phonological awareness skills to support children’s development of literacy skills in formal education.
Moeller, M. P., Tomblin, J. B., and the OCHL Collaboration. (2015). Epilogue: Conclusions and implications for research and practice. Ear and Hearing. 36, 92S-98S.
This article summarizes the key findings of the Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss (OCHL) longitudinal study funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The project was designed to examine the language and auditory outcomes of infants and preschool-age children with permanent, bilateral, mild-to-severe hearing loss (HL) who had access to contemporary services and to identify the factors that moderate the relationship between HL and longitudinal outcomes. Ten major conclusions were drawn from the study results:
- Children with mild-to-severe HL are at risk for depressed language development, and the risk increases with the severity of unaided hearing levels.
- Provision of well-fit hearing aids HAs) reduces risk and provides some degree of protection against language delay. Greater aided audibility is associated with better language outcomes in preschool.
- A substantial proportion (more than half) of children’s HAs were not fit optimally, which negatively impacted aided audibility.
- Early HA provision results in better early language outcomes, but later-fit children were able to demonstrate accelerated growth patterns once aided.
- Consistent HA use provides some protection against language delay and supports auditory development.
- Qualitative dimensions of caregiver input influence child language outcomes, i.e., quality is more important than than quantity of language interactions.
- Both receptive language abilities and aided audibility influenced children’s functional auditory and speech recognition skills.
- Children who are hard of hearing (CHH) appear to be at particular risk for delays in structural aspects (i.e., form) of language.
- Sole reliance on norm-referenced scores may overestimate the outcomes of CHH.
- Aided audibility, HA use, and characteristics of the language environment interact to moderate the influence of HL on children’s outcomes.
Walker, E. A., McCreery, R. W., Spratford, M., Oleson, J. J., Van Vuren, J., Bentler, R., Roush, P. and Moeller, M. P. (2015) Trends and predictors of longitudinal hearing aids use for children who are hard of hearing. Ear and Hearing, 36(1), 38S-47S.
The purpose of the study reported by these authors was to characterize long-term hearing aid use in children who are hard of hearing based on parent-reporting and to identify factors that influence longitudinal trends in hearing aid use. The subjects for this study were parents of 290 children with mild to severe hearing loss from the Outcomes of Children with Hearing Loss (OCHL) longitudinal study. Parents completed a hearing aid use questionnaire and participated in face-to-face interviews each time they visited the research site--two times annually for children under age 2 and annually for children 2 years and older until the age of 9. Additionally audiologists obtained data logging information about the actual average use of hearing aids per day.
Parents tended to overestimate the amount of time their children wore their hearing aids. This was especially true for parents whose children had better hearing. This finding indicates there is a need for ongoing support for parents about the importance of hearing aid use even at the earliest of ages and how to address any problems parents may be experiencing keeping hearing aids on their young children. Children did demonstrate an increase in the use of hearing aids as they grew older. Because the benefits of hearing aid use are cumulative over time, providers must continually remind parents of the benefits of hearing aid use.
Yoshinaga-Itano, C., Sedey, A. L., Wiggin, M., and Chung, W. (2017). Early hearing detection and vocabulary of children with hearing loss. Pediatric. 140(2):e20162964.
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of current EHDI 1-3-6 policy (screened for hearing loss by 1 month; hearing loss diagnosed by 3 months; amplified and enrolled in early intervention by 6 months) on expressive vocabulary outcomes across a wide geographic area and secondarily to confirm the impact of other demographic variables previously reported to be related to language outcomes. Subjects were 448 children with bilateral hearing loss between the ages of 8 and 39 months selected from the National Early Childhood Assessment Project. These children lived in 12 different states.
The primary independent variable was whether the child met all 3 components of the 1-3-6 EHDI guidelines. That is, those children who were screened, diagnosed, amplified and receiving intervention by 6 months of age had higher vocabulary quotients that those who did not. Additional variables that influenced vocabulary outcomes were:
- Chronological age
- Degree of hearing loss
- Parent hearing status
- Maternal level of education
Overall, the children in this study scored lower than expected on measures of vocabulary as measured by the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories, a norm-referenced assessment. A vocabulary quotient of 100 indicates that a child’s vocabulary age is commensurate with his or her chronological age. The mean score for the children in this study was 82, considerably less than the expected 100. Children who were younger, had no additional disabilities, had mild to moderate degrees of hearing loss, had parents who were deaf or hard of hearing, and whose mothers had higher levels of education showed higher vocabulary quotients than those who did not meet these criteria. These results are consistent with previous studies showing vocabulary acquisition decreases as children who are deaf or hard of hearing increase in chronological age (i.e., don’t keep pace with hearing children) and underscore the importance of current efforts to decrease the age at which children are identified with hearing loss and enrolled in EI. Additionally, given that a substantial proportion of children performed below average, understanding the additional factors that influence vocabulary development is crucial.
Conti-Ramsden, G., & Durkin, K. (2012). Language Development and Assessment in the Preschool Period. Neuropsychology Review, 22(4), 384-401. doi:10.1007/s11065-012-9208-z
The onset of the use of a baby’s home language signals an important advance in that child’s development. Exposure to the child’s home language in the first year of life provides the necessary input for the infant to develop sensitivity to the speech sounds of her or his home language or languages. During the preschool years, a child’s language will grow and develop through interactions with others. The quality and quantity of a child’s language performance will vary according to the interactional contexts to which a child is exposed. To ensure a child’s language --both receptive and expressive--is developing according to developmental milestones, early childhood professionals must administer multiple assessments to measure and track the language abilities of preschool children. A single measurement is inadequate. However, assessments alone are not sufficient by themselves. The use and application of language in various situations must be assessed. For example, providers need to gather information about how children act in different situations (i.e., interpret contextual situations). Therefore, the “gold standard” or “best practice” regarding language assessment is the use of a multimethod approach involving multiple informants (i.e., teachers, parents, caregivers).
ICAN (2017). Evidence for the inquiry into foundation years and life chances strategy. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2017, from http://www.ican.org.uk/
ICAN is the leading organization for children and youth communication, developing and delivering programs to support language and communication for children from birth to age 19 in the United Kingdom. Results from the 2015 Early Years Foundation Stage Profile revealed that about one-fifth of children do not have expected language levels when they begin school. For children from disadvantaged homes, nearly one-fourth of children are not meeting expectations. This study confirms previous findings that the most important factor for subsequent academic success is a child’s language skills at age five. Parent support for language development during the years leading up to school entry is crucial. Parents may require support to ensure they are providing optimal early language development for their children.
Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (2003). The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3. American Educator, (Spring). Retrieved April 17, 2017, fromhttps://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf.
During the 1960s, the authors examined the language interactions of parents living in poverty and followed their children (age 7 months when the study began) for two and a half years. They found that by the time these children reached age 4 they had been exposed to 30 million fewer words than were children in middle and upper class families--a gap that continued to widen as children proceeded through school. Further, they found a child’s early life caregiver is responsible for most, if not all, social simulation leading to language and communication development. The conversational styles of the caregivers became the conversational style of the child. Additionally, they found that words of discouragement (negative directed-speech) were far more evident among children in poverty than they were for those not living in poverty. In short, the connection between what a parent/caregiver says and what a child learns is far more significant than had previously been believed.
Lotfi, A. R., & Joybar, B. (2015). Theoretical Frameworks of Language Development A library Research. Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods, 4(5), 420-430. Retrieved April 17, 2017, from https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf.
For children to successfully acquire language, they must be in an environment that allows them to communicate socially in that language. This is crucial to language development regardless of the language being acquired. Exposure to language begins before birth and babies demonstrate an innate preference to listen to their mother’s voice when they are born. After birth, the environment to which a child is exposed will continue to influence their development of that language. Continuously hearing complex and complicated sentences will increase the child’s ability to understand them and use the complex language as they develop.
Miser, T. M. & Hupp, J. M. (2012). The influence of socioeconomic status, home environment, and childcare on child language abilities. Current Psychology. 31:144-159. doi:10.1007/s12144-012-9139-0
This study of 70 parent-child pairs, found a positive relationship between language development, acquisition and home environment. This finding is consistent with previous research on the same topic. Using two measures--the Home Environment Questionnaire and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition--these authors were able to show that the relationship between SES and home environment is more impactful on language development than are the number of hours a child spent in childcare. Further, the authors found the Home Environment Questionnaire to be a valid tool for studying ways in which home environment affects child development. This finding further supports the critical importance of providing children with a language rich environment in the home beginning as soon as a child is born.
Perkins, S. C., Finegood, E. D., and Swain, J. E. (2013). Poverty and language development: Roles of parenting and stress. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. 10(4). 10-19.
There have been numerous research studies demonstrating the effects of poverty on the acquisition and development of language. Low socioeconomic status (SES) has been shown to be a dominant stressful condition associated with deficits in brain physiology in the regions associated with typical language development. Poverty has been found to have a particularly negative impact on executive function (skills that help an individual plan, organize and complete tasks) as well as memory (skill that allows an individual to hold important information and concepts in their minds), both foundational skills essential for language learning. The first three years of life are the most critical for language development. Children who demonstrate language deficits at age 5, have an up to 10 times greater likelihood of poor reading, spelling and math outcomes by the age of 19 than do children who have achieved appropriate language developmental milestones.
Both the quantity and quality of the language used by parents have a significant impact on their child’s language development. Thus, high-quality early parent-child interaction is important for the development of the underlying skills necessary for language development. For parents living in poverty, these types of interactions are often limited or absent as parents are preoccupied with food, job and housing insecurity. There is, however, good evidence that educating the parents, especially mothers, how to provide rich language environments for their children will have long-lasting positive effects on child language developments and consequently on long-term health and welfare.
Safwat, R. F. and Sheikhany, A. R. (2014). Effect of parent interaction on language development in children. The Egyptian Journal of Otolaryngology. 30:255-263. doi: 10.4103/1012-5574.138488
For this study, the authors included 100 parents who had complaints of delayed language development in their children. Socioeconomic status (SES) is considered one of the most important factors linked to language development as it influences parental beliefs, attitudes, motivations and behaviors. These parents were ranked as having low, intermediate or high SES using a standard SES assessment. The majority of the parents (81%) were in the “intermediate” group and 19% were in the “high” group. None of the parents were in the “low” group.
Parent knowledge of language development and parent-child interactions were assessed. Findings revealed that even though the majority of parents had adequate knowledge about language development and intervention, they did not practice effective methods to foster language acquisition for their children. The majority of parents in the sample (93%) were not providing an enriching and stimulating environment necessary for language acquisition. Thus, the parents themselves were the cause of their own complaints. The authors report that some of the parents were surprised to learn they were expected to take part in their child’s language development and declined to implement interactions that would enhance their child’s language acquisition. Some of the reasons they provided were:
- They weren’t convinced there involvement would work.
- The claimed they didn’t have the necessary skills.
- They wanted a quick “fix.”
- Claimed other family members were not helping.
- Believed the therapist needed to administer the therapy.
Parental behaviors appear to be critical to a child’s language acquisition. Parent education therefore needs to include strategies, information and support to help them develop the skills necessary for them to develop their child’s language.
Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. and Rodriguez, E. T. Parent's’ role in fostering young children’s learning and language development. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Retrieved from http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/language-development-and-literacy/according-experts/parents-role-fostering-young-childrens-learning, May 4, 2017.
The amount and style of language parents use when conversing with their children is one of the strongest predictors of children’s early language development. Three aspects of parenting have been found to be central to early language and learning:
- The frequency of children’s participation in routine learning activities, such as shared book reading, facilitates vocabulary growth, phonemic skills, print concept knowledge and positive attitudes toward literacy.
- The quality of parent-child interactions expose children to varied and rich information about objects and events in the environment and can deeply influence outcomes.
- Provision of age-appropriate learning materials need to be provided for parent-child exchanges about specific objects and actions to be successful.
There is irrefutable evidence that children’s early language and learning is important for later school readiness, engagement and performance. But more research is needed to understand why children from low-income and minority backgrounds are more likely to exhibit delays in language and learning at school entry and how to best support parents in their provision of positive home environments for their children. Parents need assistance to learn how to support their children’s learning. Teaching and guidance by professionals must consider the context of early development within different cultures when working with parents from different backgrounds.