Chapter 1 Summary
Brought to you by Marie Fisher:
Connections: The author, Dana Suskind suggests that parent talk is the most valuable resource in this world no matter your race, culture, language etc.
My Story: Dr. Suskind decided to peruse her fascination of the brain through the ear and became a cochlear impact surgeon. The timing was ironic because in 1993 NIH set recommendations for all newborns to undergo hearing evaluation before leaving the hospital. The age of diagnosis changed from 3 years to 3 months.
The Cochlear Implant: In 1990 a multichannel cochlear implant allowed for complex speech processing. This timing was significant because children’s hearing loss was now being detected and possibly corrected via cochlear implant at an age when the brain pathways for language were being created. Before the NIH’s recommendations for newborn hearing screenings changed, children’s hearing loss was often not detected until age 3 and at that point the brain has completed 85% of its physical growth. Physical brain development and language development coincide. Children born deaf and implanted later in life will hear sounds but will rarely gain the ability to understand the meanings associated with the words they hear.
The Advantage of Starting Slowly: Dr. Suskind started a cochlear implant program at the University of Chicago. Her work started slow which allowed for her to attend and observe each specific family she worked with. The things she observed ultimately sparked her curiosity for a career in social science. She worked with families facing social and economic challenges.
Zach and Michelle: Both Zach and Michelle were among Dr. Suskind’s first patients to receive cochlear implants. Zach was born profoundly deaf. His parents made him wear hearing aids, had a therapist come to the home to work on techniques with the family and the parents signed with him so he had a mode of communication before being implanted around 8 months of age. Language was embedded throughout his home life. Michelle was also born deaf and received a cochlear implant around her second birthday. Michelle’s parents had a tougher home life including unemployment. Michelle’s father also had hearing loss due to Waardenburg Syndrome.
The Significant Difference: While Zach was reading on grade level (this predicts the ultimate learning trajectory), Michelle functions in third grade with minimal spoken language and a Kindergarten reading level. Dr. Suskind and her staff toured Chicago’s schools’ hearing loss classrooms to better understand “oral” (primarily spoken language) vs.“total communication (primarily used sign language) classrooms. Michelle was in the total communication classroom. Her teacher shared that she often came to school dirty, had no lunch and difficulties communicating.
The University of Chicago A Wonderful Home: Dr. Suskind concluded that Michelle’s lack of language development had to do with the home environment to which she was born. She was determined to find out how she could help this situation for children like Michelle. She started attending Child Language Development classes at the university.
Hart and Risley: Hart and Risley were child psychologists at the University of Kansas in 1960’s. They found that the language environments for children born into affluent families differed from those born into poverty. Language exposure, not socioeconomic status, is the ultimate difference. Quality and quantity of the words a child hears is linked to educational achievement.