Title: 'It’s Only Natural: Nurturing Development of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Babies in their First 6 Months'
Track: 7 - Family Perspectives and Support
Keyword(s): infant development, parent/caregiver interactions
Learning Objectives:
  1. Participants will be able to describe how naturally occurring caregiver interactions can be “tweaked” to maximize deaf and hard-of-hearing babies’ access to multi-sensory information.
  2. Participants will be able to identify specific strategies professionals can use to support family/caregiver interactions with their babies that promote development across domains.


Support for families of babies identified during the first weeks of life as deaf or hard of hearing, on average, leads to higher levels of achievement across developmental areas. The effects identified suggest important things are happening during the first 6 months. What are these things and how can professionals help parents promote their baby’s progress? Thirty years of research have provided information about babies’ competencies early in their first year. Unlike what was thought in earlier years, senses work together from the very beginning. Infants are sensitive to the whole array of sensory information available. They are multimodal processors. This presentation will address major steps in sensory, motor and cognitive-social development over the first 6 months of life. Learners will understand how babies, whether hearing, deaf, or hard of hearing, benefit from very similar kinds of activities—all natural caregiving behaviors. Next, we will focus on naturally occurring interactions that can be “tweaked” or emphasized to boost the development of babies who are deaf or hard of hearing. Learners will be able to describe: how highly sensitive visual and tactile behaviors, as used by mothers who are themselves Deaf, can support a baby’s early development; and the benefits of enhanced auditory information, e.g., intonation, rhythm and speech signals most accessible to many babies with some limits to hearing. Finally, we will provide strategies that can be used to reinforce and support caregivers’ natural tendencies to interact with their deaf or hard-of-hearing babies using all sensory modalities, e.g., auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic. This presentation will move beyond a discussion of specific methods of communication and suggest professional and caregiver behaviors that nurture and stimulate the developing brain as it establishes connections babies need to make sense of their experiences and the people around them.
Presentation: Tuesday_Coe_940_MarilynSass-Lehrer_1531.pdf

Handouts: Handout_1531MarilynSass-Lehrer.pdf
CART: Topical Session 4- 1531.docx
Patricia Spencer - Primary Presenter
Gallaudet University (retired)
     Credentials: Ph.D.Faculty and Research Scientist
      Patricia Spencer retired from Gallaudet after serving as diagnostic teacher at KDES, administrator of a national assessment center, research scientist on an extended mother-infant interaction project, and Professor in the Social Work Department. She has researched and worked with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families in the U.S., Australia, India, and Syria. Publications (numerous journal articles and 7 books) include Advances in Development of Spoken Language by Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children and a companion book focused on development of sign language. A co-authored book on the development of deaf and hard-of-hearing infants (birth to 3 years) is in progress.

Financial - No relevant financial relationship exist.

Nonfinancial - No relevant nonfinancial relationship exist.
Marilyn Sass-Lehrer - Co-Presenter,POC
Gallaudet University
     Credentials: Ph.D.
      Marilyn Sass-Lehrer is Professor Emerita at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, USA. She received a master’s degree in Deaf Education from New York University and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Early Childhood Education and Curriculum and Instruction. She is the co-director of the Gallaudet University Graduate Interdisciplinary Certificate Program: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers and Their Families. She is editor of Early Intervention for Deaf and Hard-of- Hearing Infants, Toddlers and their Families: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2016), co-author of Parents and their Deaf Children: The Early Years (2003), and co-editor of The Young Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child: A Family-Centered Approach to Early Education (2003). Dr. Sass-Lehrer has been actively involved in national and international efforts to support professional development and learning for early intervention providers and promote quality early education and family involvement.

Financial - No relevant financial relationship exist.

Nonfinancial - No relevant nonfinancial relationship exist.