Over the last few decades, research has shown how a child’s brain is geared up for learning. Children’s brains grow rapidly from birth to eight years, making this the opportune time for developing brain pathways for learning. The care, relationships, and opportunities children have in the early years have a profound impact on their long-term learning and development.
Early experiences affect a child’s learning outcomes and life opportunities in numerous ways, including:
The early childhood period is particularly important for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, whose challenges in communication and language development have been widely researched and reported.
More than 90 percent of deaf babies are born to hearing parents, most of whom have had little or no experience with how deafness impacts a child’s communication and language development. Many parents find it challenging to understand the communication needs of their deaf child and to foster interactions that lead to strong language outcomes.
Family-centred early intervention supports children’s development by building on families’ strengths and skills and by encouraging positive interactions, active participation, and advocacy for their children. We know that when families and communities collaborate in positive ways, a deaf child’s capacity to achieve their learning potential is significantly enhanced.
Other important factors affecting a young deaf child’s developmental outcomes are the level of family involvement in their child’s early intervention program and early childhood activities and the parents’ and caregivers’ communication skills. These skills include the use of gestures, facial expressions, body language and attention-getting strategies that support language input and enhance the quality of parent-child interactions.
The sooner parents can communicate effectively with their deaf or hard of hearing child, the better the outcomes. Therefore, it’s important the whole family feels comfortable communicating with each other, and that the surrounding language environment is rich, rewarding, and meaningful.