Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from C.C., Iowa

We are a large school district that continually battles to maintain our Deaf Ed pre-school, self-contained, for 2 year olds. We firmly believe the benefits for a Deaf child entering school even for half a day at the age of 2 to 2 1/2 with other D/HH peers has immeasurable outcomes. However, the district keeps pushing for the entrance age of 3. Do you have any information that would support our efforts to see to it that these little ones receive language as early as possible? We do have teachers going into the home as soon as the child is identified but truly believe the interaction at age 2 with like peers is so beneficial.

Question from C.C., Iowa. Posted April 23, 2011.
Response from Arlene Stredler-Brown - University of Colorado

I do not know of any empirical evidence that shows that children benefit from group work as a 2 year old.  What we do know, though, is that children do learn language from their peers.  But my question is whether this happens at the young age of 2 years or is it more likely at 3 years of age when children play more interactively.  This probably depends on the cognitive/play skills of the child.

My suggestion is to collect some information while you can.  If you were to collect developmental information about these children and if you show one year’s growth in communication/language in one year’s time, then you might be well on your way to showing the value of this group.

In most states, it is unusual for programs like this to start at 2 years of age.  I’m impressed that yours does.  If you were to collect some evidence it may help others working in other programs as well as your own effort.  It seems logical that there is an advantage.  More stimulation has to be good, right? But in today’s climate, it’s becoming an expectation to have evidence to show the benefit.