Milestones of Language Acquisition in Hearing Children of Hearing Impaired Parents

Adults that are hearing impaired have a 20% chance of producing children that are born with hearing impairments, so in most cases their children will be born with typical hearing. Thus, children of deaf parents will acquire language through the input of two modalities, providing an atypical language development environment. In recent years this has impelled great debate regarding the influence of such exposure, arguing whether or not this environment has detrimental affects on child language development, or no affect at all.

Hearing children with deaf or hearing impaired parents (DHH Parents) acquire language through the competency of two languages rather than one. Rather then relying on one mode of communication, they are able to produce and receive language input diversely.

Methods of Communication in Children of Deaf Parents

  • A child can use auditory- vocal (aural-oral) communication through the perception of hearing and production of speech. This is known as spoken language.
  • In comparison, a child can also use visual-gesture communication to perceive input visually while producing language manually through the movement of hands, body, and facial expression.

Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs)

  • Language is often acquired through a simultaneous method, meaning the child is provided with two modalities of language input beginning at infancy.
  • In contrast, these different modalities of language input can be presented sequentially, meaning preceding competency in their first language, otherwise known as Second Language Acquisition. This method of bimodal bilingualism is not the norm of CODAs.
  • Exposure to signed language and spoken language during the language acquisition process results in developing bimodal bilingual, which means the child has attained proficiency in both signed and spoken language through adequate exposure to inputs from both modalities.

Common errors of bimodal bilingual development

  • Due to different methods in which both languages are communicated, signing and speaking can occur at the same time. This can result in code-blending if the child wishes to convey a message that cannot be translated or expressed in the appropriate manner.
  • Their speech may also be heavily influenced grammatically by the signed language resulting in errors with verb inflection, capulas, and the absence of overt subjects, objects, and determiners.
  • It is common for the child to use spoken language to convey the signed language, or in other words, to visually describe rather convert to the lexical equivalent.
  • During the first stage of development, bimodal bilingual children may mix words or parts of words from their spoken and signed language lexicon which they learn to differentiate in the second stage.

In conclusion

  • There are no evident indications that the language development of these children is hindered regardless of the atypical environment learning environment.
  • If the child is adequately exposed to both modes of communication throughout the time period of typical language development then they will acquire language milestones at the same time as typical hearing children with hearing parents and deaf children with deaf parents, provided that their parents attain full competency of the language.

Check out What Does it all Mean to see how this compares to children learning sign language and the different factors that can affect language acquisition.