While children with hearing (HL) are experiencing greater gains in spoken language than ever before, considerable variability exists and many children with HL continue to have poorer language skills than their hearing peers. Critical to reducing this variability is the identification of: (a) effective early communication interventions for children with HL and (b) child and parent characteristics that influence intervention outcomes (moderators and mediators). However, to date, only the pilot study for this proposed study has directly examined the effects of an early communication intervention for children with HL within the context of a randomized clinical trial. The overarching goals of the proposed study are to: (a) evaluate the effects of teaching parents to use communication support strategies on child communication outcomes and (b) examine parent and child characteristics that moderate and mediate intervention outcomes. The central hypothesis is that systematic parent training will result in greater parental use of communication support strategies, greater child prelinguistic behaviors, and greater child spoken language outcomes.
The specific aims i nclude: (a) comparing parent use of communication support strategies and child prelinguistic outcomes between intervention and control groups during and immediately following intervention, (b) examining parent (communicative insightfulness) and child (sensitivity to social contingency; attention to spoken language) moderators of intervention outcomes; (c) comparing parent use of communication support strategies and child spoken language outcomes between intervention and control groups after intervention (from 18 and 36 months of age); and (d) examining parent (use of communication support strategies) and child (prelinguistic skills) mediators of intervention outcomes. The proposed study will enroll 96 children with mild to profound bilateral hearing loss. Children will enroll in the study around 12 months of age and will be randomly assigned to either a parent-implemented communication intervention (PICT) or a control group. Children in both groups will be assessed: (a) at 12 months of age (immediately before intervention), (b) at 18 months of age (immediately after intervention), and (c) at 36 months of age (18 months after the end of intervention). Children in the intervention group will receive weekly, 1-hour intervention sessions for 6-months that: (a) are delivered during an important prelinguistic period of language development, (b) incorporate visual, interactive, responsive, and linguistically stimulating communication support strategies that are associated with stronger language skills in children with HL, and (c) include systematic parent training found to be effective in teaching parents to use communication support skills in children with language delays. The proposed research is significant because effective early communication intervention is likely to reduce persistent language delays in children with HL, thereby advancing the field of childhood hearing loss, where there is a striking paucity of rigorous communication intervention research.
Improving spoken language outcomes for children with hearing loss has important public health implications. The proposed research is a randomized clinical trial of 96 children with hearing loss that examines the effects of a parent-implemented early communication intervention on prelinguistic and spoken language outcomes. Evaluating effective language intervention strategies for children with hearing loss supports NIDCD's mission of behavioral research aimed to remediate the disordered process of language development in children with hearing loss.