Beyond Early Intervention: Supporting Children With CIs Through Elementary School

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The development of cochlear implants (CIs) and the broader availability of early intervention, made possible by newborn hearing screening, have raised prospects that deaf children can be mainstreamed at the start of elementary school and fare well with minimal support. This report examines the veracity of that perspective.


This report specifically: (1) reviews progress made by deaf children in spoken language acquisition over the past 25 years; (2) presents data collected from 104 children in the early elementary grades (49 with normal hearing (NH) and 55 with severe-to-profound hearing loss who use CIs); (3) describes language acquisition that typically occurs in elementary school; and (4) highlights intervention strategies for school-age deaf children with CIs.


The spoken language skills of deaf children have improved thanks to CIs and early intervention, but remain below those of children with NH. The amount of deficit varies across the language construct examined, with the greatest deficit found for skills dependent upon phonological (speech-sound) sensitivity, and the mildest associated with morphosyntactic (grammatical) skills. There is substantial development in both phonological and morphosyntactic skills that typically occurs during the elementary school years.


Both the data and theoretical models of language acquisition indicate that even with the availability of CIs and early intervention, deaf children are behind their peers with NH when they enter school. And there is much language learning that lies ahead for them. Thus, there is a need for us to enhance our intervention with deaf children during the early elementary grades.

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