Cochlear implantation in young children in a bilingual programme

Gerard Spaai, Vanessa Lo-A-Njoe, NSDSK, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Leo De Raeve, KIDS Hasselt, ONICI, Zonhoven, Belgium
Edith Croux, KIDS, Hasselt, Belgium
The implementation of neonatal hearing screening in the Netherlands decreases the age of diagnosis
and intervention of children with profound hearing losses. It also brings down the age of cochlear
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of CI in deaf children. This holds especially for the area of
audition and speech perception and production. Benefits from CI have their limitations in that most of
the children with a CI develop speech and language skills at the best comparable to those of severely
hearing impaired children. Also, research has shown that effectiveness varies from child to child and
is, among other things, related to early hearing experiences, the age at implantation, duration and cause
of deafness, support of the child's family, additional handicap and communication approach. Even
nowadays, there is no clear picture of the language development of these children in relation to the
approach of communication. Research was started to explore the development of (pre)communication
skills in children with a CI, in relation to the communication approach, involvement of parents in
rehabilitation and child related variables.
Materials and methods
An exploratory, observational study is carried out. Two groups of prelingually profoundly deaf
children are monitored: a group of seven children being educated monolingually (i.e. the focus is on
Dutch) and a group of ten children being educated bilingually (i.e. the focus is on Dutch and Sign
Language of the Netherlands).
Auditory skills, speech perception and speech production skills and language skills are monitored over
a three years period. Related to the age of the child and the communication approach used,
(pre)communicative skills are determined using Tait Video Analysis and standardized tests. Also,
spontaneous language samples are collected for determining spoken and sign language skills.
Furthermore, parent reports are used to collect information on the development of sign language and
spoken language vocabulary and the use of speech and audition in every day communication.
Information on communication approach and parent involvement is collected via interviews of parents
and professionals.
Summary of results
Preliminary results, collected one to two years after CI, indicate: :
-strong inter-individual differences in effects;
-an advantage of the monolingual educational setting over the bilingual setting in the development of
(pre-)communicative skills. Monolingual educated children come quicker to Non-Looking Vocal
Turns and show quicker progress in receptive and expressive spoken language development.
Preliminary findings indicate that the educational setting does affect the development of
(pre)communicative skills in CI children.