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 Nana, Kansas City, KS

What is “early intervention” and can it really help a deaf child overcome barriers to learning and if so how much?

Question from Nana, Kansas City, KS. Posted May 12, 2009.
Response from Marc Marschark

Early intervention programs are often assumed to be for deaf children, but they are just as important to the families of young deaf children. For that reason, many of those programs are now referred to as parent-infant programs instead, but they are beneficial for grandparents, too! Such programs focus on language development, communication, social skills, and appropriate support for any residual hearing children might have, as well as testing and evaluation for hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Early interventionists provide parents (and grandparents) with strategies for enhancing their (grand)children’s development, including instruction in sign language, speech training, or both, depending on the particular program. They usually handle youngsters from birth until their entry into preschool. Like other preschool programs, early intervention programs for deaf children are intended to give them the skills necessary to succeed when they enter formal schooling, usually kindergarten. In the case of deaf children, they sometimes are divided into parent-infant/early intervention and preschool (academic) categories. Such programs are run by public school systems, state health and human services departments, schools for the deaf, and some private organizations. Many school systems also offer the opportunity of home-based early intervention and preschool education in which itinerant teachers work with parents, children, siblings, and other family members.

In general, deaf children who receive early intervention services have better academic, language, and social outcomes, at least early on. Long-term implications of early intervention (say in high school and beyond) to not appear to of been studied, but one would expect that advantages during the early school years would benefit the later school years.