Language and Cognitive Development
To children, learning language is something that happens on a daily basis and it is a major achievement. Language and cognitive development is difficult enough for any child, however, it is even more difficult for children who are deaf or have hearing difficulties. This paper examines language and cognitive development in children. Specifically, the paper examines the link between cognitive development and language development, language development of a typical developing child, parents` role in their children`s language development, development of language among children who are deaf or have hearing problems, and the modes of communication and their relationship to language development of deaf or hard of hearing children.
Relationship between Cognitive Development and Language Development
Cognitive development forms the foundation of all the other aspects of a child`s development as they begin exploring and making sense of the world around them. Cognitive development is positively linked to both language development and development of communication skills in children. When a child learns a first language, they build on what they already know, which is the conceptual information that enables them to categorize relations, objects, and events that they experience. As a result, cognitive development forms the foundation of language development from as early as 12 months (Carpenter et al., 1998). Consequently, a child first sets up conceptual representations, which is then followed by verbal representations that they use to talk about their experiences. The link between cognitive development and language development is best reflected in the four stages of the Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (Piaget, 1990).
The first stage is the sensory-motor. In this stage, a child learns through his/her senses activity and his/her interactions with the environment. At this stage, a child understands his/her world in terms of actions. The second stage is the pre-operations stage. In this stage, a child learns through his/her experiences with real objects in his/her immediate environment. They make use of symbols such as images and words to make sense of the world around them. Stage three is the concrete operations stage. In this stage, a child continues to learn through his/her own experiences with real world objects. The child accesses information through language and makes sense of his/her immediate and broader environment. The last stage is the formal operations. In this stage, children and adults alike learn on how to improve their abstract thinking. According to Piaget, language development is a stage in a child`s cognitive development (Thornton, 2003). Cognitive development begins immediately a child is born, therefore, it is important in a child`s language development.
Language Development of Typically Developing Children
As soon as a child is born, children begin the process of learning how to use their senses to explore the environment around them. Many infants are able to focus on and follow moving objects; they can differentiate the pitch and loudness of sound, they can see colors, and differentiate their brightness and color. They can also anticipate events for example, when they see a nipple they think of sucking. By three months, infants are able to recognize faces, imitate others` facial expressions, such as frowning and smiling, and respond to sounds they are familiar. At six months, they begin to understand the world around them and how it works (Andrews, Logan & Phelan, 2008). They reproduce sounds and enjoy listening to their own voice. At this age, they can respond to their name, they can also respond to human voices by turning their eyes and head. In addition, they respond appropriately to both friendly and angry tones (Andrews, Logan & Phelan, 2008).
At one year, children begin using one or several words with meaning. They understand basic instructions, particularly where physical and vocal cues are provided. At this age, they also practice inflection and are aware of the value of speech in socialization. At 18 months, a child vocabulary expands to between 5 and 20 words. Their vocabulary is primarily made up of nouns and they tend to repeat a phrase or a word many times. They also use excessive jargon are able to follow simple instructions (Andrews, Logan & Phelan, 2008).
At 2 years, children are able to name several objects common in their surroundings. They are also able to make use of at least two prepositions. They can combine words to form short sentences, and approximately 65% of what they say is understandable. Their vocabulary expands to nearly 150 to 300 words. However, at this age, their fluency and rhythm is still poor and their pitch of voice and volume is not well coordinated. They can use two pronouns appropriately such as ‘me’, ‘I’, and ‘you’. They appropriately respond to commands such as “show me your nose.”
Children`s language explosion happens between they are 3 to 6 years. Their vocabularies expand to approximately 900 words. At 6 years, their spoken vocabularies increase significantly to approximately 8,000-14,000 words. At infancy, children understand many words than they can speak. However, once language explosion occur, their abilities in spoken language begin to match their skills in comprehending language (Carpenter et al., 1998). As children transition from two-word sentences, they begin to learn and understand the rules of grammar. For children in English speaking countries, they began using possessive nouns such as Mummy`s car and simple plurals such as cats. They also place appropriate ending on verbs, for example jump becomes jumped, they use articles (an, the, or a) and numerous types of verbs such as ‘were’, ‘are’, and ‘is’. Partly, the explosion in children`s language skills happens because of their improved attention and memory (Carpenter et al., 1998). They become better in terms of remembering and practicing the language in their environment. They also modify word usage based on the reaction of people around them. Other than expanding their vocabularies, children begin expanding their use of various forms of words and begin forming much complex sentences. Between age 2 and 5, children equally improve their ability in pronouncing words. However, they frequently create words that they do not know. On the other hand, children of school going age begin speaking more like adults. They are able to recognize basic grammar errors and begin using negative forms of expression such as ‘not coming’ in their sentences (Carpenter et al., 1998).
As children become older, their maturity and complexity in the use of language increases. For instance, they begin understanding the use of basic metaphors from concrete ideas, such as the saying ‘white as snow’. They also start tailoring their speeches to their social situation. For instance, they speak more maturely when talking to adults compared to when they speak to their peers. During early childhood, a child`s ability to understand language at a more complex level equally develops. Young children tend to develop the ability to understand that a sentence may mean more than the actual words spoken. Between age 5 and age 7, young children are able to understand and learn how to use words when they are told their definitions as opposed to experiencing those words directly (Andrews, Logan & Phelan, 2008). In addition, they begin to understand that words have more than one meaning, which opens up a completely new dimension of jokes and humor that they find funny.
Role of Parents in Language Development of Children (Parent-Child Interaction)
Parents` role in a child`s language development begins at a very early stage. Parent-baby communication begins prior to birth. In the last months of pregnancy, a baby in the womb is able to clearly hear her mother`s voice. Beginning from the sixth month of pregnancy, a baby becomes increasingly sensitive to the unique qualities of the mother`s voice and the native language`s rhythm. In the first two years of a child`s life, he/she cannot differentiate between the different caregivers. However, he/she can recognize the mother through sound and smell. By nature, young children reach out for engagement by using babbles, gestures and facial expression (Hamer, 2012). It is the responsibility of parents to respond with a similar kind of vocalizing and gesturing back. In most cases, parents repeat and extend the child`s communication by commenting on the child`s actions and vocalizations. This two-way interaction between the parents and the child serve to develop the architecture of a child`s brain. This concept is referred to as contingency. Contingency can be defined as the degree to which the intended recipient is fully responsive and sensitive toward receiving a type of communication from another person. Under parent-baby communication, this implies the degree to which they are involved in reciprocal activity. Research evidence indicates the significance of parent-child interaction. In terms of language development, parent-child communication is important because it helps the child to develop gestures, speech, vocalizations, and syntax (Hamer, 2012).
Similarly, higher levels of parent-child interaction, which includes consistent positive responses to a baby`s actions has been found to help children gain an understanding of the rules used in conversation during their first year of life. Parent-child games such as ‘peek a boo’ enable children to learn ‘your turn, my turn’ rules. At 12 months, babies are able to interact with adults in terms of showing them objects. Research findings indicate that parental engagement positively influences children`s language. In a study by Carpenter et al. (1998), it was found that parent-child interaction when the child is 14 and 15 months improves a child`s language acquisition. In addition, the time spent in mother-child interaction when a child is below 18 months was found to influence a child`s later vocabulary growth. Furthermore, children who receive contingent replies to their early verbalization from their parents tend to develop their language structure more quickly. Consequently, it is evident that a parent`s response to a child promotes their language skills. The development of language and communication in children is more interactive and active process. The human brain is a ‘social brain’ that develops through social interaction, especially through parent-child interaction (Hamer, 2012). A child begins to acquire language as he/she constructs the representations of the sounds he/she hears. With time, these representations acquire the features of their native language. At 3 months, a baby begins cooing and when they receive response from their parents, they increase their vocalization as a response to their parents` voice.
Children are more effective in learning language when parents respond to their children in a positive and sensitive manner. In all languages, parents make use of baby-directed speech, which is characterized by shorter sentences and exaggerated vocalizations. As a child`s communication abilities develops, the parents increase the complexity and amount of their speech, and in the process the baby`s communication is extended. For children under 19 months, it has been observed that when mothers follow instead of redirecting their children`s attention, these children tend to be more quick in language development. Given the growing body of evidence, parents can enhance their children`s language development by speaking with them about events that are interesting on a daily basis and encourage their children to do the same. Using an elaborative style such as changing intonations and describing objects and actions is critical in a child`s language development and enhances a child`s understanding. In particular, recalling events is especially effective in helping children comprehend and use words (Hamer, 2012).
Language Development of Children Who Are Deaf or Hard Of Hearing
Language development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing is quite different. In the early stage of language development, both deaf and hearing children make use of symbolic gestures to communicate, for example, pointing at an object (Andrews, Logan & Phelan, 2008). However, for children who are deaf or hard of hearing these gestures are used to request prior to them being used for labeling. For deaf or hard of hearing children who are not exposed to signed language, their use of gestures can develop into complicated sign system. Secondly, just like babbling in hearing children when they are between 7 and 10 months, deaf children produce repeated manual babbling at this age. A deaf child born to non-signing parents faces a different language experience. Firstly, such children face delays in their spoken language and they have difficulties in language development because of hearing problems. However, these children can develop speech skills, particularly through oral training. By the time they are two and a half, these children can hardly go beyond 10 words. Both deaf and hard of hearing children born to hearing parents are mostly likely to have language delay and language deprivation problems (Lederberg, Schick & Spencer, 2013).
On the other hand, deaf children born to parents who are deaf also face different experiences in language development. Firstly, they face delays and problems in language development because of the inability to hear. However, they can develop speech skills depending on the input provided. Unlike deaf children born to hearing parents, deaf children with deaf parents are likely to use sign language much earlier (Schirmer, 2000). During their early stage of life, the majority of deaf and hard of hearing children are often unintentionally and unknowingly not able to access their family`s language or the language of their peers due to the fact that the language is not in a visual form. Where there is no visual language, for example the American Sign Language, the risk of language deprivation increases and their cognitive capacities are reduced significantly (Humphries et al., 2012).
Modes of Communication and Its Relationship to Language Development of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children
There are numerous modes of communication available to deaf or hard of hearing children as discussed below.
American Sign Language (ASL)
This is a manual language that deaf or hard of hearing children are taught as their primary language. ASL is considered a language in its own right, and does not borrow the English language grammar structure. ASL is widely used by the deaf. In terms of language development, ASL gives deaf or hard of hearing children the ability to communicate prior to learning how to speak (Schwartz, 2007).
This method enables a deaf or hard of hearing child to read the lips of the speaker. The speaker concurrently uses hand gestures as he/she speaks. This helps the child to visually differentiate between sounds that look similar on the lips of the speaker. This method allows deaf or hard of hearing children to develop communication and speech skills that they require to communicate with people who can hear (Schwartz, 2007).
This method makes use of lip reading (speech reading) and optimum usage of a child`s residual hearing to develop and produce speech. The foundation behind this technique is that deaf or hard of hearing children can communicate more effectively with individuals who have hearing abilities. In terms of language development, the technique helps children in developing the required language skills so that they can independently function in a world where many people have the hearing ability (Erber, 2011).
This method places heavy emphasis on the maximization of audition, and little emphasis on visual cues. This method is conducted once or twice in individual therapy sessions each week. In each session, the child has to be accompanied by a parent or a caregiver. In terms of language development, this method helps children to develop their communication and speech skills by using aided hearing only (Erber, 2011).
This method is more philosophical. It combines different methods in teaching a deaf or hard of hearing child. Some the methods used include oral speech, finger spelling, ASL, body language, amplification, and body language. However, unlike in ASL, the sign language used under this method follows the rules of English grammar. This method uses all means possible in whichever way possible to ensure deaf or hard-of-hearing children are able to communicate (Schwartz, 2007).
Conclusion of Findings
The findings from the paper are as follows. Firstly, cognitive development is positively correlated with language development. Well-developed cognitive skills enhances a child`s language development. Secondly, there are similarities in language development between a typical child and a deaf or hard of hearing child. At an early age, both use gestures and babbles. However, unlike a typical child, a deaf and hard of hearing child is often inadvertently and unknowingly not able to access their family`s language or the language of his/her peers due to the fact that the language is not in a visual form. Without a visual language, there is high risk of language deprivation and the child`s cognitive capacities are significantly reduced. In order to ensure that these children develop language and cognitive skills in the best way possible, there are various modes of communication that parents and caregivers can apply. These include total communication, sign language, oral, and cued speech. The method or combination of methods used depends on a child`s unique needs. If properly taken care of, deaf and hard of hearing children can optimum cognitive and language development just like any typical child.
Prior to this assignment, I had little knowledge on how a child, particularly the deaf and hard of hearing go through language and cognitive development. I also did not understand the role of parents in a child`s language development. This exercise has provided me with knowledge in these areas. I am committed to gaining more knowledge in the area of language and cognitive development.
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