Early Intervention Network: Supporting Linguistic Competence for Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Factor 1- Direct and daily access to language and communication is essential to facilitating each child's language and communication development.

Based on evidence, the recommended practices for this factor are:

Provide family education to address direct and daily access to language and communication

Provide family education that includes:

  • evidence documenting what "accessible" means for children who are deaf or hard of hearing in general and individually for each child;
  • the benefits of access to early, immediate family-child language interactions;  
  • the advantages of facilitating early language through a child's visual modality while stimulating and exploring the role of spoken language;
  • the advantages of including practices that explore multiple pathways and learning styles to facilitate a child's access to language and learning; and   
  • the importance of language and communication assessment in both visual and auditory modalities to guide planning for how to address development and use of each modality in the language acquisition process.

Provide family services and supports to facilitate visual language acquisition

Provide services and supports to empower families with the skills and resources to enhance family-child interactions and facilitate visual language acquisition, including:  

  • use of a variety of strategies, including home visits by teachers or specialists fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) or other sign systems identified via the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) process;
  • family guidance in how to provide a visually accessible environment inclusive of:
    1. strategies and insights learned from deaf families in facilitating visual language, such as directing and managing deaf children's visual attention using child-directed language, eye gaze, and pointing as well as using child-directed sign language to foster parent-child interaction, and
    2. strategies to guide families in enhancing their child's visual attention and modifying their interactive styles to match the visual needs of their deaf infants;
  • provision of ASL services by professionals who have native or fluent skills and are trained to teach families and young children (note: For families who choose Cued Speech or a manual code of English, professionals should be fluent models of those systems.);
  • use of a variety of resources to teach ASL, including community ASL classes, family coaching or tutoring in ASL, opportunities for interaction with fluent ASL users, and use of other ASL training resources such as DVDs and websites (see resources in the visual language section of the site resources); and
  • mechanisms  for families to connect with individuals who can serve as fluent sign language models.

Provide family services and supports to facilitate spoken language acquisition

Provide services and supports to empower families with the skills and resources to facilitate spoken language acquisition that includes professionals with the core knowledge and skills related to how to facilitate listening, speech, and spoken language skill development. See resources in the Professional Preparation section of the site reources.

  1. Family education regarding:
    • the importance of facilitating spoken language acquisition while also monitoring and addressing achievement of developmental milestones in a variety of areas, including overall language development, cognition, and social-emotional development; 
    • the importance of exploring approaches and strategies to facilitate oral/aural development to match a child's level of benefit from listening technologies and their individual language and communication profile; and
    • evidence in the literature documenting how use of sign language can be beneficial to providing a bridge to a child's spoken language development.  
  2. Use of a family coaching/partner model to guide families in learning how to facilitate their child's spoken language development via:
    • providing supports to promote appropriate, functioning, and consistently worn listening technology;
    • understanding hierarchies of typical receptive and expressive spoken language development;
    • observing and understanding a child's auditory behaviors;
    • incorporating auditory and spoken language opportunities into daily routines;
    • identifying and creating "auditory moments" to teach listening skills; and
    • teaching families how to make auditory and speech practices practical.