Deaf children with cochlear implants (CI) develop language faster when their mothers are sensitive while interacting with them, say researchers at the University of Miami announced on March 8, 2013. The study published in the “Journal of Pediatrics” found that the language skills of the children almost caught up to that of their hearing peers.
The study is one of the largest national studies about how parenting impacts very young deaf children with cochlear implants. Researchers videotaped and reviewed interactions between mothers and their children during puzzle solving, free play, and an art project involving five posters mounted on a wall of a playroom at different heights.
The study looked at 188 children with severe to profound hearing loss from five months to five years old. The researchers measured maternal sensitivity by the mother’s warmth, emotional support, and regard for the child. The impact of language and cognitive stimulation were also studied.
"I was surprised that maternal sensitivity had such strong and consistent effects on oral language learning," says Alexandra Quittner, director, Child Division in the Department of Psychology, at the UM College of Arts and Sciences and leader of the study. "The findings indicate that pediatric cochlear implant programs should offer parent training that facilitates a more positive parent-child relationship and fosters the child's development of autonomy and positive regard."
Researchers say that parental language stimulation is an important indicator of how much language these children will acquire. The study found that children with sensitive parents had only a year of delay in gaining oral language compared to 2.5 years among less sensitive parents.
The study followed the children for approximately eight years and will continue to track them into adolescence over the next five years.