Early intervention improves language of deaf

Teacher with two little boysResearch carried out at the Center for Childhood Deafness, Boys Town National Research Hospital, Omaha, Nebraska, analyzed the vocabulary skills of 112 five-year-olds with hearing loss who were part of a comprehensive language-development program. The deaf and hard-of-hearing children who received very early intervention scored as well as their hearing peers on language tests during kindergarten.

A statistically significant correlation was found between the age of enrollment in the intervention program and language development at age five. Children who were enrolled the earliest, by 11 months of age, showed significantly better vocabulary and verbal reasoning skills than children who were enrolled at later ages. This was true regardless of the degree of hearing loss. All the deaf and hard-of-hearing children who received intensive language development by 11 months of age demonstrated language skills similar to those of children without hearing loss.

While age at intervention was very important for language development, the level of family involvement in the program was significant as well. For example, high levels of family involvement correlated with positive language outcomes, even for children identified later. On the other hand, children whose hearing loss was identified later and whose families were rated as average or limited in involvement scored more than two standard deviations below hearing children on language tests at age five. But when children were identified before the age of one and when families were actively involved in early language development programs, children arrived at kindergarten with no language deficits.

“Early Intervention and Language Development in Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing” Pediatrics Volume 106, Number 43, 2000 For more information, e-mail: moeller@boystown. org

Published in ERN November 2000 Volume 13 Number 8

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