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Advantages of Early Visual Language.

It's a myth that sign language will hold back a deaf or hard of hearing child from developing spoken language. It has been shown that spoken language skills and English literacy actually increase as children learn more gestures and signs.

What is this paper about?

This paper discusses the advantages early intervention and family involvement provide in language learning for deaf and hard of hearing children.

The earlier hearing loss is identified and addressed by specialists working with families, the better the outcomes will be for a child’s language development. For early intervention, specialists should be knowledgeable about both visual language (sign language) and spoken language. They can help families make informed decisions about communication and education.

Family involvement makes a critical difference in language development for deaf and hard of hearing children, especially those with hearing parents. A mother’s signing skill has also been linked with future language development of her deaf or hard of hearing child. Family involvement and a mother’s skills in sign language can both help make up for the disadvantage of a late start to early intervention programs.

What are the key findings?

  • Specific 'sensitive periods' in the brains development where it's most receptive to language acquisition occur in a child's early years.
  • In a study conducted with children awaiting cochlear implants, children learned to understand comments, questions and explanations, and to sign simple phrases. The sign language learned by the children is thought to have allowed rapid development of speech, as the children developed spoken language after receiving their cochlear implant. 
  • Every deaf or hard of hearing child is different, and acquires languages in their own individual way.
  • Learning two languages (such as sign language and spoken/written English) can have great advantages for children.
  • Children from deaf families tend to acquire a complete first language from communicating with their family members who are fluent in sign language and most start school performing at a similar level to their peers.

Where can I read more about this paper?

Advantages of Early Visual Language.

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