Critical Period for Language Development

Key Words: Information, Deafness Related Issues, Deaf Education

Jessica Soltesz

Kent State University

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 intervention.

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.

Key Points:

Uploaded by: Jessica Soltesz, Kent State University, Deaf Education Major