The Importance of Early Language Acquisition

Did you know the first five years of life is crucial for early language acquisition? During this short period of life, babies’ brains are like a sponge and can absorb so much information. By the time they reach 5 years old, their brains are 85% developed (Children’s Bureau, 2022). Early language acquisition is essential for cognitive and emotional development. I cannot emphasize this enough because I see so many deaf children with underdeveloped skills that are important for survival and transitioning into adulthood. Deaf children experience language deprivation on a daily basis and it is time to change that. To make that change, it starts at home and with you.

Many deaf children lack early language acquisition skills due to the fact that most of their parents do not sign. Medical professionals often refer parents to adopt speech therapy or recommend hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. It is important to recognize that speech therapy and hearing devices are a tool that not every child will benefit from. More often than not, parents are unsure of what to do upon finding out their child is born with profound hearing loss. Deafness seems to be foreign to many parents. Hearing people will most likely meet at least one deaf person in their lifetime. When this ends up being their own child, it can seem isolating and scary for the first-time parent. The initial reaction for many might be to put their trust into medical professionals to help guide them as new parents of a deaf child. Many medical professionals fail to provide a deaf consultant or a deaf advocate that can offer insight on the deaf community. The medical community continues to exclude the deaf community from the conversation. Deafness is a spectrum and if parents are interested in meeting with someone who understands both worlds, then they should have easy access to those types of resources. Parents should not be deprived of any resources or information that is currently available to their deaf child. Language acquisition should be heavily encouraged instead of fixating on a cure or recommending cochlear implants as a quick fix. It needs to be emphasized that children with hearing aids and cochlear implants are still deaf regardless of these devices. While they do make for amazing tools, sign language is another way to add so much depth and understanding a person’s world. Without sign language, the world can feel basic and dull.

If you would like to learn more about early language development and want to see a checklist of different developmental milestones, click here: Speech and Language Developmental Milestones | NIDCD (nih.gov)

If you’re interested in understanding the difference between ASL and English acquisition in children with supplemental checklists, check out this article


References:

Children’s Bureau. (2022). Why The First 5 Years of Child Development Are So Important.