Communication between Hearing Parents and Young Children with Hearing Loss:Information Parents Receive and Utilize to Support Children’s Language Developmentedit
Family-centered early intervention for children with hearing loss is intended to provide parents with information about ways to strengthen interactions with their children that can promote children’s language skills. Best practices within the field of early intervention suggest that service providers should encourage parents to provide language-rich environments and use specific language techniques; however, these best practices are stated in vague ways, and do not provide specific examples of the information service providers should give to families. Research provides details about what these language environments should be like: specific quantities and qualities of parents’ language have been shown to predict the language skills of children with hearing loss, such as parents’ use of a greater amount of different words (e.g., word types) and certain language techniques (e.g., expansion). Furthermore, researchers have hypothesized that information parents receive as part of early intervention may influence these quantities and qualities of parents’ language; however, this has never been investigated. Therefore, the purpose of the current research was to investigate the information that parents receive as a result of participating in early intervention, and examine how this information was related to the quantities and qualities of their language when they interacted with their children. Participants were primarily recruited via early intervention service providers throughout Michigan. Participants included 12 parents (11 mothers) who were hearing, and their children with permanent hearing loss who were between 12-29 months of age (M = 21.6). Parents participated in an interview about their experience with early intervention, and an observation of parent-child free play. Study 1 examined parents’ reports of the information they receive from early intervention service providers about how to promote the language development of their children with hearing loss. Thematic analysis was used to identify patterns in the information parents received. Results suggest that the information parents receive is partially in line with current best practices within the field of early intervention, such as the importance of frequent communication with their children during everyday activities. However, parents also discussed the need for additional information and unbiased support about how to promote their children’s language skills. Study 2 examined parents’ quantities of language and use of specific language techniques during free play with their children, and how this related to their reports of information received from their service providers. Relationships between these aspects of parents’ language and other important contextual factors, family socioeconomic status (SES) and children’s current language skills, were also examined. There was substantial variation in the quantities of parents’ language, including overall talkativeness, and in their use of specific language techniques. Parents’ use of parallel talk was related to their receipt of information about the importance of frequently talking with their children throughout the day. Other patterns indicated that parents of lower SES used more directives with their children, and children who used a greater number of word types may elicit parents’ use of the language techniques shown to promote their language development. Taken together, these studies reveal that the information parents receive from early intervention is important to their language inputs when interacting with their children with hearing loss. Furthermore, these studies demonstrate the importance of providing parents with more nuanced information about the specific ways in which they can support their children’s language development by building on their existing skills.