In all the three spheres of development namely language, social and academic there seems to be four dynamic groups involved: hearing parents with hearing children; hearing parents with deaf children; deaf parents with hearing children; and finally, deaf parents with deaf children. This paper seeks to explore how these groups interact and affect the development of children. It also expounds on the disparities that exist among the four groups. While it is clear that these children do not have much difference developmentally, the parents have to devise unique ways to ensure their children are not disadvantaged. Language forms the basis for the acquisition for other skills and fosters the development of both the social and academic abilities.
Hearing children of hearing parents learn language by picking up on the voices and the words of their parents and react accordingly. However, it proves problematic when hearing parents communicate with their deaf children because this connection is broken. (Dana-Bergerson, 2012, pg. 171). Hearing children of hearing parents learn through active participation such as cooing, response to crying, exaggeration of gestures and typical "baby talk." Contrary to misconceptions, speech is not the only form of language that children learn from, they also learn from facial expressions, signs and gestures and is essential for profoundly deaf children to be exposed to these forms of language.
Deaf children with hearing parents have the ability to develop their language skills if the parents actively participate in sourcing for specialists who can assist them in communicating and developing language skills between them and their children. Mothers of deaf children develop unique ways to communicate with their children such as drawing the children's attention by waving in their face or by touching them. Simple gestures by parents serve as primary communication for the children. The parents might also decide to learn American Sign Language and develop it from an early age as a form of communication. Signing thus is a legitimate language for these children and they grow up reaching the developmental milestones at the same age hearing children do.
Research has shown that hearing children with hearing parents experience high social development as compared to the deaf children of hearing parents. This difference in development is contributed to the mismatch in communication with the hearing parents with no early experience of communicating with deaf children have to adjust to the situation. These children, as they grow older might develop wrong self-perceptions because of the negative experiences they go through in social settings like in a "normal" school than they would in a specialized school. (Gascon-Ramos, 2008, pg. 61). However, if parents make a conscious decision to cater to their deaf children, they can form strong emotional bonds that help them adjust in the outside world. (Marschack, 2002, p.66).
If interventions are done early for the deaf children, they stand at a better advantage of better social development. Parents are encouraged to participate actively in helping their children develop as soon as the diagnosis is made. Joining the deaf community and other programs geared towards the same have been found highly beneficial for the parents in their times of adjustments and help them keep in contact with their young children and be more involved in their development.(Byrnes, 2009, p. 44). The deaf community also provides much needed role models for deaf children to look up to as they grow older. (Marshark, 2002, pg. 60).
A lot of research has indicated that positive and motivational environments provided by parents go a long way in helping the cognitive development of children, regardless of their ability to hear or not. (Bempechat, 1992, pg. 35). Children who grow up with the capacity to hear naturally learn from their parents where they learn to pick up cues on the formulation of questions and correct grammar as directed or corrected by the parents.
On the other hand, deaf children with hearing parents could benefit as well if the parents intervene at an early stage to develop a language that facilitates learning with their children. Poor language skills are the cause of slow cognitive development for hearing-impaired children and full access to language can prevent it from happening. Parents of profoundly deaf children are encouraged to get involved in the deaf community that has highly developed language and skills that facilitate easy learning for these children which will also teach the mothers to modify their language to effectively communicate with their children. (Marschack, 2002, pg. 92). These parents are then able to help their children with schoolwork and help in their academic achievement.
Most children born to deaf parents are hearing, and only about 4.4% of deaf children are born to deaf parents. Hearing children as some studies report show some unusual speech patterns but do not exhibit the "deaf voice" as deaf children do. These children have exposed both to the sign language of their parents as well as the English language of their peers that may lead to some confusion as they communicate with others. Children assume that if they know something, then everyone knows it too and thus end up communicating using the sign language to those who do not understand it.
The reason for the poor development of linguistic skills in English is attributed to the poor language input from the parents. The children pick these skills from their peers who themselves have yet to develop their skills or from the television. (Toohey, 2010, pg. 3). However, these children may have proficient signing skills and gestures that they have picked up from their parents as they grow up. Hearing children who grow up with deaf parents develop language skills if they have hearing individuals around them for considerable lengths of time, about 5-10hours a week. (Singleton, and Tittle, 2000, pg. 225). It gives them time to interact and pick up communication skills from these people.
Deaf children born to deaf parents succeed in language skills because there is a natural communication where their parents are equipped with signing language skills. The sign language, in turn, facilitates the acquisition of English and makes it easier to adapt to the schooling system once they are of age. Deaf parents can effectively use sign language with their deaf infants.
Social development of children is based on their secure attachment to their parents during infancy, language development that facilitates peer socialization and self-perception. Hearing children of deaf parents may have a harder time socially as they feel responsible for interpreting communication between their parents and strangers. They may be reluctant to do so as they often get overlooked in the conversation. It makes them avoid using their English language and shy away from interactions. (Todd, pg. 8).
Deaf children of deaf parents may have trouble adjusting to environments with hearing individuals because of their monotonous language skills that the hearing children may not possess. Social interactions become difficult to initiate and carry out, and these children are apprehensive of socializing with their peers for fear. However, deaf infants of deaf parents form strong attachments to their parents as the parents continuously engage them in gestures and signs they use to communicate.
Bonding between deaf parents and their children is facilitated by the use of special devices that bring to the attention of the parent the cries of the child. They are similar to a baby monitor and encourage closeness between the parent and the child. (English, 2005).
Deaf children of deaf parents have been at an advantage academically because of their highly developed signing language skills. These children do better than hearing children of deaf parents who have a hard time adjusting to learning in a normal setting because of limited vocabulary and poorly developed grammar. However, if these children have adequately developed signing skills due to the time their parents spent signing with them, they outperform other children, not because of the signing but the early exposure and duration to the language skills.
Deaf children of deaf parents also perform better than hearing children raised by deaf parents who do not sign by the same virtue. Since their parents have the first-hand experience with sign languages, they tend to start them early and by the time they become of school going age, they have enough linguistic skills that enable them to acquire other skills.
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Bempechat, J. (1992). The role of parental involvement in children’s academic achievement. The School Community Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1992. (pg. 35; 171)
Byrnes, J. P., and Wasik, B. A. (2009). Language and literacy development. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. (pg. 44).
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English, T. (2005). Deaf parents. Retrieved online http://www. lifeprint.com/as101/topics/deafparents.htm
Gascon-Ramos, M. (2008). Wellbeing in deaf children: A framework of understanding. Educational and Child Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 2. The British Psychology Society. (pg. 61)
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Toohey, E. N. (2010). Phonological development in hearing children of deaf parents. Honors Scholar Theses. Paper 153. (pg. 3).