Lip-reading can be an imprecise science at times, but certain children and individuals find it’s a lifeline to understanding what’s said around them.
Babies naturally look at peoples’ faces when their attention is attracted, or they are spoken to. It’s never too early to teach lipreading, regardless of how a baby is going to communicate eventually.
Babies Lipread At Four To Twelve Months Old
Lipreading ability is known in babies of 4 to 6 months old. Researchers have confirmed recognition of visual cues in babies exposed to silent video clips.
In one test, speakers switched between spoken French and English in the silent clips. After a switch, babies who didn’t know a language looked more closely. This shows they noticed a language with different forms was in use.
Spoken Bilingualism Detected By Lipreading
After eight months of age, only babies who were exposed to both English and French at home could tell the languages apart through visual cues.
The research concluded that after eight months of age, babies learning just one language were less sensitive to visual information for other languages.
An unrelated test confirmed that babies recognised the difference between silent videos with faces making the vowel shapes “ahhh” (a) and “eeee” (e) .
Interestingly, babies who later heard “eee” sounds looked at the face with a grinning mouth, and on hearing “ahhh” sounds, at the wide-open mouth.
Some implications of this research:
- Teaching deaf babies sign bilingualism (sign with English). If the babies are to learn both, they need to start in infancy (early intervention for language development).
- Infant diagnosis of deafness underpins language-learning potential.
- The principles of early intervention are confirmed: the use of hearing aids and visual teaching to support a baby’s language development.