This study investigates differences between preschool children with cochlear implants and age-matched children with normal hearing during an initial stage in word learning to evaluate whether they (a) match novel words to unfamiliar objects and (b) solicit information about unfamiliar objects during play.
Twelve preschool children with cochlear implants and 12 children with normal hearing matched for age completed 2 experimental tasks. In the 1st task, children were asked to point to a picture that matched either a known word or a novel word. In the 2nd task, children were presented with unfamiliar objects during play and were given the opportunity to ask questions about those objects.
In Task 1, children with cochlear implants paired novel words with unfamiliar pictures in fewer trials than children with normal hearing. In Task 2, children with cochlear implants were less likely to solicit information about new objects than children with normal hearing. Performance on the 1st task, but not the 2nd, significantly correlated with expressive vocabulary standard scores of children with cochlear implants.
This study provides preliminary evidence that children with cochlear implants approach mapping novel words to and soliciting information about unfamiliar objects differently than children with normal hearing.