Whether in Cape Town, Berlin or Shanghai, all babies and toddlers go through the same developmental stages of language acquisition, regardless of the language they will later speak.(1)
Even without language, people can have lively exchanges, because communicating is more than "just" speaking.(2) This is especially evident in tracheostomized children. Through the tracheostomy tube, air flows through the tube rather than through the upper airway and thus through the larynx and vocal cords. Because of this, most children cannot form sounds or communicate by voice at the beginning. They cannot hear themselves and do not experience that the voice is a means of communication. Therefore, tracheotomized children initially communicate differently than non-tracheotomized children.(3) In infants and toddlers, their own body becomes the most important organ of speech. Facial expressions and gestures are soon used to great effect.(2)
Simple sign language is helpful, and it is used in therapy with sound-supportive signs. It is not as complex as the language of the deaf and can be used easily by lay people. In this way, the children can communicate before the voice is heard. This is a valuable way for children and their families to open up an early communication opportunity.(3)
Through specific training, therapy and appropriate tools, the possibilities of communication should be taught and encouraged to meet their natural need and pleasure to communicate and make contact. This makes the next step to using the voice an easier one.
Anna for example, has been tracheotomized since birth and wears a tube. She is a lively child and learns with her therapist that her mouth serves an important function. She learns about the fun of eating and the joy of speech.
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1) Accessed on 25.08.2021 from https://www.planet-wissen.de/gesellschaft/lernen/sprache/pwiewiekinderdiespracheerwerben100.html
2) Accessed on 25.08.2021 from https://www.tracheostoma-kinder.ch/pflege-f%C3%BCr-eltern/kommunizieren
3) Speech development in children and its initiation in children with a tracheostomy tube, Nicolin Bähre, 2021