Critical Period for Language Development
Key Words: Information, Deafness Related Issues, Deaf Education
Bench, R. J. (1992). Communication skills in hearing-impaired children.
California: Sigular Publishing Group, Inc.
Chapter 2, "Early Assessment and Intervention," of this book touched upon the
idea that there is a critical period for language development and it has studies that prove
and disprove that belief. It also assesses the importance of early intervention on hearing
impaired children, and gives some suggestions as to how to most effectively go about that
It was thought that the critical period for language development begins at 6
months of age and expands over several years, during which children normally acquire
most of their phonology and grammar. This theory was challenged when a study was
conducted on a girl who had been isolated for the first 6 years of her life. She was
brought to a normal educational level by age 8. Many other studies have proved that
language can be acquired after the critical period has passed.
One case study showed that there might be a language barrier if language isn't
acquired before puberty. A girl was deprived of any language until she was about 14.
After three years of training, her language development wasn't even close to being fully
developed. There have been so many exceptions studied that theorists can't make a clear
judgement on whether language must be acquired before a certain or not.
One confusing study reported that early assessment of hearing loss has harmful
effects on the later acquisition of speech. There was a higher incidence of speech when
the assessment was not made until 2 years of age. A possible explanation for this could
be that early assessment which was not followed by appropriate rehabilitation and
counseling have led to parents depriving the child of affection without anxiety. If parents
are informed early that their infant has a hearing problem, they may modify their speech
making it more difficult for the infant to experience natural language. This shows that
counseling and guidance are needed for the children to develop normally.
Early intervention (intervention before 2 years of age) and late intervention were
studied to find out which one was more beneficial for a deaf child. There was no
significant difference in language development between deaf children ages 6-16 who
received early intervention preschool training and those who did not. There was a
difference, however, in the children who received early intervention along with parents
being involved in the treatment and the children who just received late intervention.
Early intervention groups had better linguistic competence than the other groups. Also,
deaf children who attend preschool programs were reported as achieving higher SAT
scores in high school than those who do not attend preschool.
Kent State University
Early intervention increases the later achievements of hearing impaired
- Early intervention programs are more likely to be successful if they have a
strong emphasis on parent counseling and experienced staff to check and
maintain hearing-aid performance.
Uploaded by: Jessica Soltesz, Kent State University, Deaf Education Major