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Communication Styles Can Affect Language Development in Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Sophie Ambrose, Ph.D.

Sophie with Baby

The research in the Communication Development Lab is focused on improving the communication outcomes of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. This work includes conducting studies to understand the communication between parents and their children who are deaf or hard of hearing. We've studied how they each use gestures, signs and spoken words. We've found subtle differences in how parents communicate with their children who are deaf or hard of hearing as compared to how parents communicate with their children with typical hearing. These studies reveal that one of the most important things parents can do to help their children learn language is to involve them in back and forth conversations. Parents should also strive to use language that encourages conversations and includes words to talk about thoughts (think, know, remember) and feelings (upset, happy), instead of using "directive utterances" that tell the child what to look at or do (sit down, "say ball").

Below is a figure from one study that included 18-month-old children who are hard of hearing. The line shows that children who hear less directive talk (further to the left on the figure) have stronger language skills (higher up on the figure) than children who hear more directive talk.

Graph

The following research articles provide more information about communication between parents and their children who are deaf or hard of hearing:

Educational seminars by Dr. Sophie Ambrose on a range of topics can be located here: