The brain of an infant is a miraculous thing to behold. It is much like a sponge that absorbs vast amounts of information at a rapid pace. Complex processing begins in the young heads as the toddlers start to take in experiences and sensory input and form neural connections. However, what if the newborn is deaf? Research identifies the difference in cognitive abilities between hearing and deaf children but when do these differences begin? Exciting new research is answering the question. These cognitive differences between hearing and deaf children start at an early age.
Studies regarding the differences in the cognitive abilities between hearing and deaf children typically highlight four areas:
Visual information processing
Concept learning and knowledge organization
Executive functioning and metacognition
The challenges for deaf children in school involve language comprehension, cognition, and learning strategies. It is known that deaf and hearing children have different knowledge, backgrounds, experiences, and learning strategies. While the differences are apparent, the time frame in which they begin is not.
Information Processing Study
The Ohio State University College of Medicine study examines when the differences in cognitive development between hearing and deaf children begin. Numerous studies establish clear evidence of differences in cognitive development between hearing and deaf children. The authors of the new research want to know when those differences begin?
The study compares the visual processing skills of hearing infants with those skills of deaf infants. A baby will lose interest and look away from a visible object once it is encoded, and the researchers incorporate this into the project. In the study, the researchers show 23 deaf infants and 23 hearing infants colorful objects on a screen to test their visual processing skills. The findings indicate that deaf infant looking times are 30 seconds longer than hearing infants. The look-away rate for deaf infants is 40% lower than hearing infants.
Familiarity with new objects takes longer for deaf infants and shows a difference in the way information processing takes place even if the information is not auditory. This research does not mean that deaf children learn at a slower pace. It is possible that the additional time spent with objects is for closer attention to detail and a deeper level of processing.
The study team believes that future research into information processing for deaf children will focus upon why there are differences in visual learning between hearing and non-hearing children. The result of this future research can result in these children learning in a manner that best works for their specific needs. Specific interventions can then be put into place early, which significantly benefits children’s ability to learn and process information.
This information processing study is the first to examine when cognitive differences between hearing and deaf infants begin. The findings demonstrate that developmental differences start early and reach beyond language and hearing. The researchers feel that future research must point toward the question of why these differences in information processing exist.