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Sensitive Moms for Faster Language Learning
March 8, 2013 - By: - In: In the News / Awards - Comments Off on Sensitive Moms for Faster Language Learning

Deaf kids who receive cochlear implants develop language skills more quickly if there mom is more sensitive in listening-speaking interactions. These findings from research by University of Miami Psychologist Alexandra L Quittner studied the effects of parenting on language acquisition for very young deaf children implanted with a device that allow them to her for the first time.

“I was surprised that maternal sensitivity had such strong and consistent effects on oral language learning,” says Quittner, “The findings indicate that pediatric cochlear implant programs should offer parent training that facilitates a more positive parent-child relationship and fosters the child’s development of autonomy and positive regard.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Hell, my daughter’s can hear just fine and I wish I had gotten some training. We did OK in the “positive regard” problem, since my daughter gets a 4.0 when it comes to self-regard, but the autonomy thing has devolved into irritation at the balky ATM I have become.

Researchers measured maternal sensitivity by watching videos of mother-child interaction. Degree of warmth, expressions of positive regard and emotional support were calculated.

188 kids with severe to profound loss of hearing, aged  between 5 months and 5years, participated in the study. The biggest improvements in language skills were observed in those children whose parents displayed high sensitivity. Language stimulation was also important but more effective when delivered in a sensitive manner as defined by the researchers.

Children with sensitive parents had only a one-year delay in oral language development, while kids with less sensitive parents lagged on average 2.5 years. The study period lasted 8 years, and the NIH has recently funded a five-year extension of the study to investigate social and cognitive development as the kids hit adolescence.

It’s hardly surpassing that love makes for the best language lessons. Parents are the best teachers, as It is the mindset of the teacher that makes for effective instruction. Amanda Ripley took a look at this in an interesting piece in the Atlantic a few years ago, “What Makes for a Great Teacher.” The secret sauce? Perseverance. Hard to argue with that too.