In March 2011 Professor Field Rickards, Dean, Melbourne Graduate School of Education from the University of Melbourne launched VDEI’s first Masterclass. Associate Professor Margaret Brown from the University of Melbourne presented to more than 150 professionals in deaf education on Thursday evening, 17 March 2011 at Taralye in Blackburn.
Entitled, The first relationship: Parental adjustment to infant hearing loss, Associate Professor Margaret Brown discussed a series of published studies into parent-infant interaction conducted at the University of Melbourne. Collectively, these studies challenge widely held beliefs about ways that hearing parents interact with their deaf children.
Factors under investigation included maternal scaffolding, sensitivity and responsiveness, effect of age of implantation and parental expectations.
Margaret referred to research that found that English outcomes and levels of play were lower in deaf children than in hearing children. Three theories – the Developmental Theory of Piaget, the Vygotsky Social Constructivist theory and Intuitive Parenting - guided her research.
Margaret’s conclusions were that the development of levels of play was associated with vocabulary development and that the developmental change in pretend play was similar to that of hearing children up to the point at which there is a vocabulary spurt. Margaret also found that mothers of deaf children scaffold their child’s pretend play and language through directly modelling play; what seemingly looks like maternal dominance as reported in other studies is an attempt to maintain joint attention. Futhermore, mothers of deaf children appeared to make adaptations to match their child’s development.
Margaret referred to four studies when looking at the impact of the cochlear implant: Jaskiernaik’s (2001) study of early vocal development post-cochlear implant; Dettman’s (2005) study of maternal input pre-and post-cochlear implantation; Nott’s (2006) study of rate of word acquisition post-cochlear implantation; and Abu Bakar’s (2005) study of maternal responsiveness and sensitivity pre-and-post cochlear implantation.