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Advancing outcomes for children who are deaf and hard of hearing at an international forum

Four NextSense experts joined leaders from around the world to share their clinical and academic knowledge to advance understanding of the communication challenges children with hearing loss face.
A little girl in a classroom looks offscreen to the left. She has her hair up and is wearing a cochlear implant
  • Hearing

At Macquarie University’s Beyond Speech: Roads to Effective Communication Workshop, experts came together for the second year running to discuss how we can continue to improve the communication, language, social, and emotional outcomes of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

This workshop was organised as part of the Macquarie University led ARC Linkage Project ‘Beyond Speech: Roads to Effective Communication.’ The project is delivered in partnership with representatives from NextSense, The Shepherd Centre, Hearing Australia, Cochlear, and Parents of Deaf Children. Learn more about the project here.

NextSense experts, Prof Greg Leigh, Katherine Phelan, Dr Robyn Cantle Moore, Inge Kaltenbrunn, , Maree Rennie and Caren Matthews-Lane, presented their research results and clinical insights to the group. They explored the impact an early introduction to Auslan has on language development, applying an attachment lens to children with complex needs’ development and outcomes, and the longitudinal psychosocial outcomes of children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Benefits of early Auslan language development

NextSense Speech Pathologist, Katherine Phelan, discussed the benefits of taking a bimodal bilingual approach in early intervention—outlining key research and presenting the experiences of some NextSense clients.

She identified that there are many benefits to introducing Auslan to your child as early as possible, and that, for some children, waiting to teach this important form of communication can negatively impact their language development.

‘Signed language development can be pursued parallel to spoken language intervention and can provide a bridge for receptive and expressive spoken language,’ Katherine says.

Katherine suggests that Auslan development for deaf and hard of hearing children may also have benefits beyond those shown by language assessment results. Benefits can include enhancement of psychosocial development by nurturing their Deaf identity and acceptance, broadening their scope of social participation, and improving overall functioning.

Contributing to events such as Beyond Speech: Roads to Effective Communication is one of the key ways NextSense continues to show leadership and innovation in our sector, she says.

‘Given our 160-year history of supporting people who are deaf or hard of hearing and our strong links to the Deaf community, we are uniquely placed to promote Auslan and a bimodal bilingual approach to language development.’

Connection between a child’s quality of life and psychosocial outcomes and language development

Greg and his co-researchers, Professors Teresa Ching and Linda Cupples, focused on the developmental outcomes of children who are deaf or hard of hearing at the Beyond Speech workshop.

The trio shared their findings in this forum for the second year running.

This year, they presented a subset of data from the LOCHI Study—a population-based longitudinal study that prospectively evaluates the development of a group of Australian children with hearing loss as they grow up.

This data points to the connection between a child’s quality of life and their psychosocial outcomes and language development.

‘Language development is about much more than “test-focused” linguistic abilities. A child’s abilities to communicate in social interactions and comprehend in different environments are just as important,’ says Greg.

Greg explained that the Beyond Speech: Roads to Effective Communication project is an excellent example of collaboration in the sector.

“Opportunities like this are fantastic ways to harness the collective knowledge of researchers and work collaboratively to advance the outcomes of children who are deaf and hard of hearing,” he says.

Our highly regarded NextSense research team and research partners are committed to collaborating with and contributing to projects, such as Beyond Speech: Roads to Effective Communication, to advance our sector’s understanding of the experiences and needs of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

These contributions are just one of the ways we work to optimise the communication outcomes of children who are deaf or hard of hearing now, and in the future.

Learn more about NextSense’s research associations.

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