The overarching goal of this research program is to elucidate the relationships between gesture and spoken language for children with hearing loss. For children with normal hearing, gesture use is predictive of later spoken language outcomes. Additionally, parental gesture use and parental responses to toddlers'gestures support children's linguistic outcomes. For children with hearing loss, the relationships between gesture and spoken language have been largely unexplored. An NIDCD working group identified the need for research on gesture development with this population.
The aims of this longitudinal study are to: 1) determine whether the gestural abilities of toddlers with hearing loss predict unique variance in their later spoken language abilities, 2) ascertain the effects of maternal gesture use on the linguistic outcomes of toddlers with hearing loss, and 3) establish the influence of maternal responsiveness to gesture on the spoken language outcomes of toddlers with hearing loss. This work will result in translational findings regarding the value of utilizing gesture abilities to identify toddlers with hearing loss who are most at-risk for difficulties with linguistic achievement. Findings will also have a significant impact on how we counsel parents regarding the communication strategies that will best support their children's spoken language development.
Children with hearing loss demonstrate widely variable levels of spoken language achievement. Early identification of children who are most at-risk for limited linguistic achievement is critical so that interventions for these children can be individualized t optimize their outcomes. Similarly, a better understanding of how parental communication style affects children's linguistic development is necessary for determining which early intervention techniques should be utilized to promote successful linguistic achievement for this population.