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Social Service Review


Deaf children who are not provided with a sign language early in their development are at risk of linguistic deprivation; they may never be fluent in any language, and they may have deficits in cognitive activities that rely on a firm foundation in a first language. These children are socially and emotionally isolated. Deafness makes a child vulnerable to abuse, and linguistic deprivation compounds the abuse because the child is less able to report it. Parents rely on professionals as guides in making responsible choices in raising and educating their deaf children. But lack of expertise on language acquisition and overreliance on access to speech often result in professionals not recommending that the child be taught a sign language or, worse, that the child be denied sign language. We recommend action that those in the social welfare services can implement immediately to help protect the health of deaf children.


child neglect, deaf children, language neglect, linguistic deprivation, sign languages, social communication


This work is freely available courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

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