Title

Ensuring Language Acquisition For Deaf Children: What Linguists Can Do

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-1-2014

Published In

Language

Abstract

Parents of small deaf children need guidance on constructing home and school environments that affect normal language acquisition. They often turn to physicians and spiritual leaders and, increasingly, the internet. These sources can be underinformed about crucial issues, such as matters of brain plasticity connected to the risk of linguistic deprivation, and delay or disruption in the development of cognitive skills interwoven with linguistic ability. We have formed a team of specialists in education, linguistics, pediatric medicine, and psychology, and at times specialists in theology and in law have joined our group. We argue that deaf children should be taught a sign language in the early years. This does not preclude oral-aural training and assistive technology. With a strong first language (a sign language), the child can become bilingual (with the written form of the ambient spoken language and, perhaps, the spoken form), accruing the benefits of bilingualism. We have published in medical journals, addressing primary care physicians, in a journal with a spiritual-leader readership, and in a health-law journal. Articles in progress address medical educators and practitioners. Team members present findings at conferences, work on lobbying and legislative efforts with the National Association of the Deaf, and spread the word at conferences of target audiences. We share our work in Word format, so that anyone can easily appropriate it for our common interests. One of our articles has been downloaded over 27,000 times (as of April 2014), and we are asked to consult with committees in other countries as they draft national policies.

Keywords

deaf children’s rights, first language acquisition, brain plasticity, sign languages, ethics and activism in scholarship