The University of Manchester

Researchers to study home based support for deaf infants in South Africa

A research project is to investigate a home-based early intervention programme for deaf infants under the age of 6 in South Africa.

This collaborative study between the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Deaf Studies and the University of Manchester’s Social Research with Deaf People programme will analyse the programme’s  impact  on their development. It is funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council.

Prof Claudine Storbeck  Primary Investigator: South Africa said: “Around 6,000 deaf children are born in South Africa each year, but the lack of universal newborn hearing screening means that the average age of diagnosis of hearing loss in South Africa is 28 months old.

“The availability of data on deaf child development and impact of early intervention is sparce and structured early intervention programmes to promote early childhood development in the first three years of life are minimal

“Those offering South African Sign Language (SASL) as a language option are very rare and largely unavailable to families.”

“As a result, the linguistic, communicative, cognitive, and socio-emotional development of deaf and hard-of-hearing children in South Africa can be delayed, often significantly.”


Prof Alys Young – Primary Investigator said: “Results from high-income countries show that identification and diagnosis by 3 months of age with family support and early intervention by 6 months of age drastically improve the developmental progress of deaf children.

“The project will investigate the extent and character of the impact of such a home-based early intervention programme, alongside an understanding of what might mitigate the effectiveness of such a programme of intervention.

“This is important because home-based early intervention for deaf infants is not universal and the case for its effectiveness is not proven within the wider context of school readiness in South Africa.”

The researchers will investigate the HI HOPES early intervention and family support programme, which supports families with deaf and hard of hearing children

Founded in 2006 by the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies as a non-profit programme, it provides families with specialised home-based early childhood development  programme for children from birth to 6.

The project also aims to provide large scale data on the development of deaf children in South Africa that will help to inform the South African Government/UNICEF National Early Learning and Development Standards (NELDS) from birth to four years.

It will also support, age-normed and standardised Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM) 4 & 5 Years assessment tool, developed by South African early learning charity DataDrive2030.

An important part of the  work will be the adaptation of the ELOM to ensure suitability for deaf children as well as developing a standardised South African Sign Language (SASL) version to ensure the validity of all items for children who are SASL users.

Prof Storbeck added: “It will be possible for the first time in South Africa to accurately evaluate deaf children’s developmental progress and needs in all domains (not just language) at point of school entry.

For more information on the overall research project, contact: Prof Claudine Storbeck – Primary Investigator: South Africa,  The University of the Witwatersrand,  [email protected]  and Prof Alys Young – Primary Investigator: UK,  The University of Manchester, [email protected]


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