California Family Resource Centers | Michael D. Eisner College of Education | Department of Special Education | Deaf Studies Department | National Center on Deafness

Deaf Education And Families Project

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Is my child too young for language?

by Rachel Friedman Narr, Ph.D.
August 2011

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Is my child TOO young to start working on language?

The simple answer to this question, is “no.” We’ve had many parents tell us they’ve been told their infant is “too young” to start working on language goals. At birth your child is ready to start acquiring language. Parents, siblings, and other people in the child’s life interact with and start stimulating the wonderful world of language acquisition.

What does language mean?

Language is the systematic, conventional way you communicate with your child. It’s the way you share concrete ideas like what color an apple is, or what you are eating for dinner. And it’s the way you share abstract thoughts, ideas and dreams like what you liked most about summer vacation, how your grandmother met your grandfather, or why the moon looks so bright in the sky.

The FORM of language is how people communicate. Most hearing people use spoken English (or Spanish, Russian, French, etc) to communicate with others. Listening and speaking skills are required to communicate using spoken language. Spoken language integrates gestures, facial expression, body language, and visual cues along with auditory information (speech) so a message can be understood.

Along with spoken language, many hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing people use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with others. American Sign Language is a complete and natural language that is used by people in the United States and some parts of Canada. Vision and movement in space are required to communicate using ASL. Along with signs, body language, facial expressions, and mouth movements are parts of ASL.

Text is also a form of language. Reading and writing is a way that language is communicated when it’s not spoken or signed!!

In addition to FORM, language is also comprised of CONTENT and USE. Content is the meaning of language. It is our vocabulary, our intentions, the meat of our ideas. Use is the social use of language. It is our pragmatics, the way we interact with adults, children, a professor, a doctor, or our friends. CONTENT and USE are equally important parts of language, along with FORM.

What does language look like in babies?

At birth, babies see, hear, and feel the language around them. Every time you communicate with your baby, you are providing them with the opportunity to interact with language. Between birth – six months, babies express themselves through their eyes (what they are watching), their coos and cries, and later a smile. They don’t say a whole lot, but this time is a VERY important language and cognitive growth time. Babies’ brains are being shaped and cultivated during this time, and the language input you give them NOW, provides the foundation for their later cognitive growth.

When your teacher comes for weekly visits, ask them to provide you with ideas of ways to make language visual, accessible, and comprehensible for your baby.

REFER yourself or a family

Download our referral form (.doc file) and fax or mail it to us. Referrals require permission from the person being referred. download form submit online

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