To investigate the relationship between prelinguistic communication behaviors and subsequent language development after cochlear implantation in deaf children. Evaluative tools with predictive validity for language potential in very young deaf children remain elusive.
A tertiary care cochlear implant center and a preschool setting of spoken language immersion in which oral language development is emphasized through auditory and oral motor subskill practice.
Eighteen prelingually deaf children who underwent unilateral implantation at an average age of 15 months also underwent testing with the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales (CSBS) before device activation and with the Reynell Developmental Language Scales (RDLS) at an average of 20 months after cochlear implantation.
A prospective study correlated preoperative communication behavior assessments of 18 children who were candidates for cochlear implantation. We examined the value of prelinguistic behavioral testing with the CSBS in predicting later language level after cochlear implantation as reflected in RDLS scores.
We found positive, though weak, correlations between prelinguistic communication skills (CSBS scores) and language learning after cochlear implantation (RDLS scores). Linear correlation between test results failed to reach statistical significance (receptive comparisons, P = .17; expressive comparisons, P = .13).
Evaluating the quality of prelinguistic communication behaviors potentially adds important predictive information to profiles of children who are candidates for cochlear implantation. Correlative analysis suggests that early CSBS testing may provide useful clinical information. Poor CSBS scores may serve as a precaution: if children lack an appropriate prelinguistic behavioral repertoire, the emergence of age-appropriate formal language may be at risk. Observations suggest that symbolic prelinguistic behaviors are necessary, but not sufficient, for the development of strong linguistic skills. The variability of behavioral measures in very young deaf children poses challenges in designing objective measures with predictive value for later language level.