Dr Teresa YC Ching is Professor in Special Education and Disability Studies at Macquarie University and Professorial Fellow at NextSense Institute (formerly the Research arm of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children) in Australia. She is also Honorary Professor at The University of Queensland. She has conducted longitudinal research into the impact of early intervention on development of language, speech, literacy, psychosocial abilities, and quality of life in Deaf and Hard of hearing children with the goal of improving outcomes of children and families. She has also developed novel assessment tools with colleagues for assessing speech discrimination capacity in infants and adults with the aim of expediting referrals for cochlear implant candidacy. Her research has been funded by NIH, NHMRC and many other agencies.
Cochlear implantation is standard of care for children with severe and profound hearing loss and those who obtain limited benefits from hearing aids, with the goal of supporting speech and language development. Well-developed language abilities lay the foundation for literacy, academic success, mental health, employment, and participation in society. Longitudinal studies in typically developing children suggest that language development is highly variable in pre-school years, but those who reach 5 years with poor language are unlikely to catch up. The nature of language trajectories in children using cochlear implants is poorly understood. Increased knowledge contributes to informing decisions on how and when to focus resources to achieve the greatest gains for children’s language development. This paper draws on developmental outcomes of children using cochlear implants from age 3 to 10 years. Individual differences in language abilities and language growth trajectories will be examined, and the factors that accounted for differences in abilities and rate of progress will be explored. These factors will be discussed together with theoretical and clinical implications for maximizing language outcomes in children using cochlear implants.