Infant deafness stymies non-verbal communication, even gestures such as pointing


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Early non-verbal communication skills involving gestural behaviour can be severely impacted by infant deafness, reveals new research by psychologists at the University of Sheffield, UK.

The academics studied infants' use of five types of early communication known to positively predict language development: show gestures, give gestures, index-finger pointing, communicative vocalisation, and word use.

Published in, Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Sheffield study concludes that deaf and hard-of-hearing infants ˝are at high risk of delay in the gestural and vocal communicative skills that lay the foundations for later language˝.

The delay in developing gestures, say the researchers, suggests this is not simply a consequence of difficulties in imitating auditory stimuli. And they stress that caregiver intervention from the first year can lift children with hearing loss onto the right developmental path.

But the authors stress that ˝a major challenge in this work will be engaging sensitively with parents at what, for many, is an emotionally turbulent time, when not all families are ready to participate in interventions or research˝.

A series of free help videos by the University of Sheffield have been made available online.

Source: medicalxpress