Your child may not hear too well, but are young infants and toddlers smarter than we think?

By Ronald Kennedy

February 3, 2023

“Research shows children are a lot smarter about language than we thought, and can communicate in gestures. Toddlers also appear to be much more intellectually advanced.”

My neighbors children were as young as 6 months old when they start learning these simple skills. But their hand control may not have quite been there yet. The children may not have had the hand control to be able to repeat moves back to anyone until he or she is 8 or 9 months old. Although, they knew it would be a time-consuming task, they had a ‘good time signing’ with their child.

My neighbor friend started teaching these skills to their children when they thought they were ready. She would sometime ask, “Why can’t my toddler hear?” – even if they can’t mimic back yet. But when baby signing time come in a way you’d feel satisfied, then you’ll know and accept it.


Staying Aware

Like with my neighbor’s family, It’s only natural that his wife wanted all her children healthy at birth with no medical concerns at all. Hearing issues should not hinder a child’s developmental growth in life.

The family was informed from medical professionals and other parents who’ve gone through this, that it is not an easy task if hearing issues arise. So it’s suggested they learn and teach their children sign language if need be.

It’s also brought to their attention that many kids are born with this type of disability.

Parent’s glow in the moment of any new addition to the family. Their only concern is their child’s development as he or she grows older through life. But in case something is wrong, there is help for parents of children with hearing loss or partial impairment.

Early Detection

You’ve noticed something’s not right with your child. You try speaking, he or she doesn’t acknowledge your presence; unless you are standing right in front of them

After weeks of concern, you take the child in for an evaluation. But just for precautions, you start looking into the importance of special needs for toddlers.

You’ll be amazed to learn that when you teach baby signs so early in their young lives, it’ll be much easier for them to adapt and communicate better among a hearing community.

You come to find your child has partially hearing loss in both ears. The doctor informed you that some infants are unfortunately born this way.

The doctor also points out that educating yourself on early detection involving a child’s hearing issue is something that he recommends to all concerned parents.

He then questions about the family history, and as far as they know, the immediate family is fine. My friend’s family also tell their doctor that they’re not sure of the hearing health of other distant relatives in your family tree.

So while in conference with the doctor, they have many questions. They wanted to know more about the causes of hearing loss symptoms in children.

At this point, they want to get the full understanding of this devastating disability that could hit the family. The doctor also mention reading a report on hearing impairment: definitions, assessment management that can help further the understanding of certain words that may be puzzling. As a parent you start to think, can testing and treatment improve a child’s social development?

My Past Story: Remembering Raymond

All this brings to mind back in late September 1960, when I was growing up on the west side of Chicago, (better known as the ‘Windy City’), we had a favorite family we’d visit two houses down in the next block.

Fall was here and a new school year had just begun.

Mr & Mrs. Robbins, I recall was the name. We knew them for years. Mr. & Mrs. Robbin’s and the kids appeared to be basically in good health; as far as I could tell.Children with hearing loss

They had three other daughters. The oldest brother was my best friend in school. Back during those times, I never took it seriously when someone had some type of disability.

I was just a young ignorant kid out having fun without a care in the world. No rent to pay. No bills to deal with. The only thing I placed all my focus on was chasing the girls and seeing what I could get out of them.

But while in school I did have the best friend. My friend’s name was Raymond. He was cool and we got along just great. I got to know his sister’s as well.

But as our friendship grew, I started to notice something about Raymond that really irritated me. Every time I spoke to Raymond, most of the time he ignores me. Hey, was he doing this on purpose or just playing around?

This is my best friend! What’s wrong with him? What in the world did I do?”

Later at home, I’d spoke with my mom about Raymond’s behavior. Sometimes he’d talk, other times he would not pay any attention to me.

I found out later Raymond was suffering from hearing loss and was very surprised (you can imagine how I felt; especially after the way he was teased called stupid.

Boy! I felt like kicking myself right in the butt. I didn’t know! To think, poor Raymond just couldn’t help himself. You would think the teachers and other school staff members knew of Raymond’s condition, but I was never aware.

Families back during those times, (I’m talking about the late 50’s) didn’t have the money or any type of resources to help their child who were born with a hearing impairment.

My family didn’t have much either, but still tried to offer financial support to the Robbins family. Now that I think back today, hospitals back then were not too knowledgeable in regard to treating hearing loss.

I don’t believe they had any good, qualified men or women who specialized in this field. Parents searching for treatment for their baby were not well-informed.

Not many teachers during this time were available. More classrooms specializing in hearing disabilities would have been very helpful back then.

So in conclusion to Raymond’s story, it makes us feel lucky that with today’s advanced early hearing detection and universal screening regarding symptoms of hearing loss, we’re able to offer hearing impaired children a better quality of life.

What’s good now is the fact that a person can take courses specializing in this particular field and attend any of the listed schools offered in your state. Even your local community college may offer this in their school curriculum.

People that just can’t afford college classes can now apply for a federal grant and start educating themselves.

Most Babies Learn Through Interaction

Let it be known that a child with a hearing impairment can be taught to communicate through body and facial motion, but not all will learn to speak clearly.

Some children learn to lip-read well, while others never fully mastered the skill. Some at a much slower pace than others. Here you’ll find helpful info on baby sign language.

Now you just have to pay a little more attention. Just as learning to crawl is so exciting that it inspires young children to learn to walk.

As far as not being able to hear, the young child is still too young to realize why the world that surrounds him or her is silent. The only comforting thing is knowing you’re there.

It’s also worth noting that music, songs and chants are a perfect medium for helping children develop vocabulary and strong language skills. It’s easy to understand, therefore, how songs can be a useful way to practice and reinforce communication as well.

If you enjoy singing with your disabled child, you can sing and motion in baby signing time, during your daily communicating activities. So remember, a loving bond between a parent and their hearing impaired child is the greatest feat a parent could ever accomplish.

Growing Pains Regarding Children Communicating Skills.

Young kids have little or no control over their lives. Relating to others is one thing that begins to empower them.

That’s why it goes without saying, that children communicating goes hand-in-hand. You, the caregivers, are the most important influences in your toddlers worlds.

Connecting with you at an early age will feed them emotionally and intellectually.Hearing loss in kids

More and more educational research confirms what wise parents have always known – you will establish the lasting foundation of your child’s physical, mental, and spiritual health by meeting all these needs during those first few years.

And naturally, the time you share with your child will be of higher quality when you are more interactive. My own children are all grown now. Now here are the grandchildren and sign language was never taught to them.

But they’re all understanding to the fact deaf children do exist in our society, and it’s also important to look out for the signs of going deaf.


They also understand that ‘our eyes’ are important in regard to non-verbal connection. This process would lead to a closer sense of connection. I feel that by experiencing communication in this way, you tap a little deeper into the roots of parent/child bonding – the more dynamic your communication, the stronger your bond.

Parents who do learn early sign, get incredible satisfaction. They enjoy teaching sign language to their toddlers at an early age.

Many who have used this system have expressed the delight they experienced a connection with their kids so early in their lives. Many parenting rewards are built on a foundation of good faith.

We found that our kids expressed themselves clearly when speech began. By clearly, I mean they were able to chose or search for the precise words to express their thoughts.

They followed a logical and systematic parents in expressing themselves. This process would follow the same pattern as the way in which I had introduced a sign for an object or situation. Many youngsters continue to use signs after they begin speaking because it’s so much fun.

While I have your attention, I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions. When your children begin to speak, they will learn and use whatever words you give them.

Don’t underestimate their intelligence and memory. Use correct and accurate words. Even if they cannot pronounce a word perfectly, they have heard it and will eventually use it in the correct context.

I knew a parent who would teach his son specific words for injuries, (bruise, cut, scrape, etc;).

They learned to distinguish the different types of injuries, while I noticed other kids their ages still said ‘ouch’ or ‘owie’ for all injuries. This is just an example; you can carry this idea through all vocabulary development.

Teaching your youngster sign, starting with a “baby” word for ‘wanting something,’ only to replace it later with a more sophisticated word, may be doing them a disservice.


Children Like Communicating With Adults

One last bit of advice: I know some parents who, with all good intentions, want to be such good parents that they over anticipate and meet their kid’s every need too readily.

The drawback here is that these youngsters rarely have an opportunity to express their needs. Sometime between the first indication of need and the screaming stage is the opportunity to introduce signs.

This way, you can be most effective in helping your infants develop their ability to tell you exactly what they want. Also, don’t ask your kid to sign out of context, perform for others, or compare your him or her to other ones.

Children with hearing loss

Be careful not to show disappointment if your youngster chooses not to sign in a particular situation even if your kid has signed in a similar situation before.

Remember, don’t make signing with your baby a lesson, but use signs in your daily life as an augmentation to your speech. Don’t teach the signs, just sign. Let your baby discover.

Babies have control over their hands long before they develop the fine motor skills required for speech. By teaching their infants to sign, starting as early as eight months, more and more parents, grandparents and caregivers recognize the many benefits of this early signing.

Scientific research is revealing that a baby can understand and express much more than what was previously thought possible. More and more people are beginning to take advantage of these important findings.

Now you as a parent seeking additional knowledge, you can use these findings to tap into your baby’s astounding, capacity for understanding and enhance the bonding process by building an early foundation for effective connecting.


Producing a normal child is an important parental need. The motives may include biological instinct (preservation of mankind), self-esteem, social pressures, a wish to care for and nurture someone younger and more helpless, a wish to continue the family line, a desire to prove that one is competent, a need to undo one’s own bad experience as a child, and many others.

The effect of a child’s deafness on the family needs to be understood in light of these emotionally loaded motives.

Aside from the obvious reason that knowing the cause of their child’s deafness may influence how he or she is managed, parents (like all people) have a need to understand, and if possible to control, what happens to them.

After the shock of diagnosis, parents often fear that in some way they have caused the deafness. These parental fears roughly fall into two categories: things they might have done wrong, and things they may have neglected to do.

For example, those parents who emotionally rejected their child during the pregnancy (smoked too much, drink too much, engaged in sexual activity outside the times pronounced safe by their doctors, or tried to abort the unborn child), may feel guilty, although it is highly unlikely that any of these factors influenced the deafness.

In Conclusion

Producing a child who is physically different often prompts feelings of inadequacy, especially if it is the first child. Knowing the cause of deafness is desirable and may help reduce doubts about the ability to cope with the loss.

Some families are very concerned with the question of genetics: which side of the family did it come from? Will the hereditary tendency affect others in the family who may not yet be born – the brothers and sisters of this deaf child? Should children and communication ever become a problem?

These are questions that should be answered for the family by their physician or, if the situation is complex, by referral to a genetic counseling clinic.


Author: Ronald Kennedy

Ron attended the Art institute of Chicago in 1980 and Harold Washington College in 1997. He graduated from Malcolm X College in May, 2000 majoring in 'Hearing Loss in America' and 'Children with Hearing Disabilities Around the World' (Ron has another interesting website, regarding Love, Dating & Relationship). A Graduate of Malcolm X College in 2000 with an associate's degree in applied science, Ron also worked with the 'Chicago Area Autopsy Service' which is affiliated with the Medical Examiners Office, near downtown Chicago. The service covered all the local and suburban hospitals when reports of a death is called in.

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