Hi! I would like to share about the article written by Francois Grosjean who provided his perspective by researching Deaf children. The article mentioned that ASL should be the primary language of a Deaf child. Despite the use of various technological aids ( i.e. cochlear implants), sign language is mandatory period. Why? I will explain the reasons for you to think about it.
When hearing babies are born, they normally acquire language in the very first years of life that their parents communicate with them and that babies receive information by listening to surrounding sound environment such as T.V., radio, people having conversations, etc. Even some parents sign with their hearing babies making it more accessible. “Language in turn is an important means of establishing and solidifying social and personal ties between the child and his/her parents. What is true of the hearing child must also become true of the Deaf child.”
It is crucial for Deaf children to see a visual, 100 percent accessible, natural signed language that they are able to completely comprehend the information as they grow up.
But is this really happening for all Deaf children? Unfortunately, no. Why? Organizations like AG Bell, AVT (Auditory Verbal Therapy), etc. think it is not necessary to include ASL but focus on listening and speaking ONLY. That only approach HURTS! I will explain to you why.
First of all, we don’t know for sure if a Deaf baby will grasp information completely through auditory. All cochlear implant users don’t pick up the information in the same way. We know that some hearing aid users have developed strong listening skills and some of them don’t at all in spite of having the same decibel loss. Too often, people assume by exposing one language (oral) would do just fine until the moment they realize that this approach did not work. So what happens to that child? “He or she falls BEHIND in his/her development, be it linguistic, cognitive, social, or personal.” It becomes TOO LATE!
This issue is disturbing to DBC that this oral only approach is GAMBLING the Deaf child’s life away from academic development, social development, healthy emotional development, etc. We need to advocate more strongly on having both languages, ASL and English, for all Deaf children.
The responsibility, the duty and the goal of DBC are to make sure that ALL Deaf babies from the start have access to natural sign language that is acquired naturally as much as possible where two-way communication takes place. For a Deaf child to bridge to English (spoken English and/or written English), the most important part for academic success and future professional achievements is to master written English. Once a Deaf child has the ability to write well, he/she can do anything!
By using one language (oral) approach and excluding ASL with those who use listening assistive devices, is it a right way? No! We know that obviously oralism involves RISK! BET! GAMBLE!
Having the ability to develop cognitive/personal skills will be minimized when using oral only approach. Why limit the Deaf child’s ability? He or she would have developed much more advanced in these areas (linguistic, cognitive, social and personal). Oral approach with most Deaf children is not perceived as communicating in a two-way street in a natural way. Research states that for a Deaf child to use oral only approach impedes communication and that the daunting effort to develop speech skills is consumed rather than focusing on developing cognitive skills. When using ASL, “it allows the young Deaf child and his/her parents to communicate early, and fully, on the condition that they acquire it quickly.” ASL play an important role in the Deaf child’s cognitive and social development and it will help him/her acquire knowledge about the world. They can express about anything that is much easier and clearer for them to communicate.
Hearing parents can learn signs and they need to get more support. What DBC wants to see happening out there is the establishment of ASL Therapy Centers. We don’t even have one here in America but we always have numerous speech therapy centers even hotline phone numbers where immediate attention can be given. More fund is needed to establish such centers where support to facilitate hearing parents’ signing skills will be much more possible in the future.
In the meantime, DBC has been sharing an important message that every Deaf baby has the right to sign. Why is this so important? There are numerous benefits and opportunities using ASL when a Deaf child grows up. In this case, opportunities are more of GUARANTEES.
BILINGUAL (ASL/ENGLISH) GUARANTEES A DEAF CHILD’S FUTURE!