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How do deaf babies learn to communicate? A comparison of parent-infant interaction in Deaf and hearing families

Department of Psychology

About the Project

Good early communication skills from an important foundation for children’s later education and social interactions. Infant deafness often creates significant barriers in learning these skills. Compared to hearing infants with hearing parents, deaf infants with hearing parents (who have little prior deaf awareness) are at significant risk of delay in early communication. Deaf infants with deaf parents are generally thought to be at less risk since many deaf parents intuitively adapt the way they communicate in ways that are helpful for deaf infants. However, relatively little is known about how this latter, relatively rare, group of infants learn to communicate. Exploring this is not only interesting in its own right, it has the potential to help us support deaf infants more generally. A series of studies could characterise the social and communicative development of deaf infants. For example, one skill that deaf infants with deaf signing parents have developed by 24 months is that of looking to their caregivers’ faces more often than a typically-hearing infant with hearing parents would. It is likely this skill is developed early in infancy but we currently lack good studies on this very early period. This project could explore a whole host of communicative skills on the part of the parent or infant by looking at differences in gaze, facial expression, vocalisation, action, gesture and interpersonal synchrony and crossmodal synchrony

Funding Notes

Self funded or externally sponsored students only.

NB The University has some scholarships under competition each year. Funding applications usually open November for the following October start dates. More details can be found - View Website

Start dates are usually March and October yearly


Recommended Readings:
Brooks R, Singleton JL, Meltzoff AN. Enhanced gaze‐following behavior in Deaf infants of Deaf parents. Developmental science. 2019:e12900.
Lederberg AR, Everhart VS. Communication between deaf children and their hearing mothers: The role of language, gesture, and vocalizations. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 1998;41(4):887-899.
Lieberman, A. M., Hatrak, M., & Mayberry, R. I. (2014). Learning to look for language: Development of joint attention in young deaf children. Language Learning and Development, 10(1), 19-35.
Roberts MY. Parent-Implemented Communication Treatment for Infants and Toddlers With Hearing Loss: A Randomized Pilot Trial. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 2018;62(1):143-152

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