The language of signs allows deaf people interact with their environment, but not always the communication is effective. And we do not all know this language.
That is why, in the case of children with hearing dysfunction, day-to-day life is essential to learn language, and it is easier for children with deaf parents to achieve effective communication in both directions. For their part, parents of deaf children are subjected to an extra effort to understand their child at all times, and vice versa.
Language development in deaf children
By the time of their first year, deaf children are able to emit the first signs, being as understandable to others as the first words spoken by a hearing child.
This is due to the simplicity of the initial gestures, in relation to their cognitive and linguistic ability. The response of the receivers is positive, but with the passage of time the complexity increases, making a dent in the understanding and acquisition of the concepts expressed by the deaf emitters.
Before embarking on their way in the development of language, deaf and auditory children externalize some similar prelinguistic vocalizations, although in the case of the first babbling it went unnoticed by hearing people.
At first, gestures play a fundamental role in communication, being later replaced to some extent by language, be it sign language or oral language.
Gestures, Essential in education
In addition, gestures are considered the precursors of signs, and form an inseparable couple throughout life, in the same way that they accompany speech. And it is that in certain occasions we must accompany the words with the gestures for a more effective understanding.
Despite the great presence of gestures in our daily lives, in deaf people which are even more necessary. Children with deafness not only use them to communicate with their environment, but also with themselves. Thus, they internalize and constitute their language and thoughts.
During the preschool stage, deaf children who practice sign language in their day-to-day lives, that is, they are exposed to it naturally by having parents with the same hearing difficulties; present a remarkably rapid acquisition in performing conventional signs to refer to certain objects and actions.
Little by little, as they also interact with other people of their age who communicate with the same language, the signs evolve and thus improve their way of expressing themselves.
In this way, they not only manage to make themselves understood, but also the rest understand them, producing a successful initiation and subsequent development of language.
Parents and Children: The Union Towards Learning
Due to the multiple complexities of language, deaf children with hearing parents take longer to internalize the different aspects, in relation to other deaf children with parents who present the same circumstances or hearing children with hearing parents.
Between the period of 3 and 4 years , children tend to overgeneralize some signs, as happens to their peer listeners when they learn their first words, being in the middle of the 4 years the moment to use the first inflections to refer to a place and direction (such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’).
Evolution of Language
The subjective meaning comes when facial expressions are added to the signs, being able with just 4 years to describe how and why things happen, as well as expressing their feelings, tastes, intentions or purposes. This is when children feel ready to learn the grammar rules of sign language.
While under normal circumstances language acquisition is a natural phenomenon that is learned from children automatically, in the case of deaf children the process is not so clear. Therefore, in this case we must refer to language learning, rather than the language development shown by hearing children.
For deaf children, language is a challenge, in which they must influence and make a great effort. An incentive for the development of language to reach these children early is to come from deaf parents, thus being able to establish a language and acquire the cognitive and social tools which will be encouraged in school.
However, deaf children of hearing parents are at a disadvantage, as they only receive specialized training at school while at home parents strive to integrate their child into society in the best possible way, becoming involved in their language development through signs.
Visual and Gestural Communication
It is necessary to note the sensitivity shown by deaf parents with children who suffer from the same hearing impairment, using non-grammatical language, and achieving greater efficiency in communication in both directions.
On the other hand, hearing parents develop non-auditory strategies to communicate with their children, such as tactile contact.
During the first year of life this practice is essential to promote affective language, learning the child to communicate in a gestural way and based on vision. In this way, reading lips or paying special attention to the face or hands is an important source of information.
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