Monday, March 31, 2008

ASL Does Not Hinder Language Development!

My blog post is in a response to Deaf Chipmunk's vlog on "AG Bell, Tear Down This Wall." Some of the commentators made great points but some of those clueless commentators calling themselves mom and another mom were flashing those so-called biased research claims that reinforced their way of thinking that "ASL hinders the development of good language development." It made me question if they are blinded about the reality of success that actually exists for those Deaf individuals who acquired ASL as a first language and who were exposed to bilingual environment have succeeded in, but not limited to, cognitive, academic, leadership and social development.

These moms are truly the products of ignorance, assumptions, misconceptions and myths. AG Bell and the AVT people have done a helluva of a job keeping a thick wall of ignorance in place, (just exactly as Deaf Chipmunk has so eloquently indicated by using the metaphor of the Berlin Wall) to prevent Deaf children from using a natural signed language, ASL. For them to claim that "kids develop language and cognitive skills by speaking only are superior to those who learn ASL and spoken language simultaneously" is absolutely far-fetched and so untrue.

I am going to share a glimpse of my personal experience growing up deaf and present my arguments about the research document link that these poor moms have been getting the impression that learning ASL as a "second language after childhood outperformed those who acquired it as a first language at exactly the same age. In addition, the performance of the subjects who acquired ASL as a first language declined in association with increasing age of acquisition."

Like some of my Deaf friends who shared a similar background as mine, I came from a Deaf family and ASL was my first language but I grew up in a public school without interpreters/notetakers for many years and acquired English as my second language. If you know Mark Drolz by reading his entries at Deaf Culture Online, he and I were practically neighbors living in a close proximity to each other. Our Deaf parents knew each other and we both used ASL while growing up. There are other Deaf families who raised kids like us acquiring both languages (ASL as a first language) and are we fine? You betcha! Here we are, not only writing our blogs but practicing our professions after obtaining our master's degrees. You rock, Mark! One more thing I want to add is that my Deaf sister and I are the only ones who have master's in the extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who are all hearing) and yes, for me, there was "easy conversation with my pals down the street and the school around the corner… with my Sunday School teacher or my grandfather" without having undergoing AVT and to be shunned away from ASL.

Anyway, I wore one hearing aid and I managed to grasp spoken messages well since I was auditory trained and engaged in frequent speech sessions when I was younger. But like CI kids, (yes, I compare myself to CI kids since I was very capable of hearing almost everything thanks to high frequency when I was younger) it is never 100% when to comes to understanding speech especially in a large group setting. But I had ASL in hand since it was my first language and thank God for that! It came to my rescue in reinforcing concepts when it comes to reading, writing and expressing in English. Later on, before I became a sophomore in high school, I finally got to transfer to the school for the Deaf where Laurent Clerc, America's first Deaf teacher, founded and taught there. That was that school what we know as American School for the Deaf (ASD). For the first time, I had two Deaf teachers, one teaching reading and one writing. It was a first time that I had ever experienced a true bilingual educational classroom and from that point on, my English and speech skills skyrocketed! I am not even exaggerating and to prove that, I actually skipped two years of high school from that point and enrolled Gallaudet College at the age 16. My neighborhood friend widened her eyes when I spoke to her after not seeing her for a while when I was gone to ASD. She said, "Barbara, my gosh, you speak better than before!" She was simply speechless for a while.

Take my word or sign for it, ASL DOES NOT hinder language development and it is NOT true that Deaf individuals who speak only are superior than those who use ASL and spoken language. These moms presented a research document that has been published in 1993 written by Rachel Maybery. It stated that:

"Subjects were 36 deaf adults who had contrasting histories of spoken and sign language acquisition. Twenty-seven subjects were born deaf and began to acquire American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language at ages ranging from infancy to late childhood. Nine other subjects were born with normal hearing, which they lost in late childhood; they subsequently acquired ASL as a second language (because they had acquired spoken English as a first language in early childhood). ASL sentence processing was measured by recall of long and complex sentences and short-term memory for signed digits. Subjects who acquired ASL as a second language after childhood outperformed those who acquired it as a first language at exactly the same age."

Let me tell you something about this author. Rachel Mayberry wrote this piece in 1992 that was later published in 1993 that may be outdated. In 2000, she became a part of the editor group to write the book, Language Acquisition of the Eye. I haven't read the whole book yet but I am going to order it for sure! However, by taking a peak in each of the chapters, it looks like her perspective has changed drastically since she justified bilingual studies in this link titled "Reexamination of Early Exposure and Its Implications for Language Acquisition by Eye":

"These studies demonstrate that individuals who are exposed to language at earlier ages consistently outperform individuals exposed to lan­guage at later ages for first and second language acquisition of both signed and spoken languages. "

Now did you notice the title, "Reexamination?" Mayberry no longer stated that those who acquired ASL as a second language after childhood outperformed those who acquired it as a first language at exactly the same age. The recent statement said that language at earlier ages do better than those who were exposed to language later and it did not exclude ASL. Oh wait, there's more. In Chapter 9, A Piece of the Puzzle: ASL and Reading Comprehension in Deaf Children, the very same author stated in her book that:

"Literacy skills in ASL have only recently begun to be identified ( Bahan & Supalla, 1996). Within the education of Deaf children, language and literacy skills in ASL have not been recognized as having the potential to impact the acquisition of English literacy skills."

Mayberry also included that "their study and the others cited here all provide consistent and strong evidence of a correlation between ASL skill and English literacy ability." It looks like that Mayberry's perceptions have really evolved because she has been immersed in a research field for almost a decade that leads her to justify bilingual approach. For this mom to say that "restricting them by ASL and/or lack of implantation would be a shame" is NOT a shame at all! First of all, restricting them by ASL is no such thing. We tend to expose Deaf children in both languages. If they have spoken abilities then they can go for it when appropriate. If they have residual hearing abilities, then they can go for it with hearing aids when appropriate. If they don't have residual hearing, it doesn't mean one must feel the urge to implant them. It is the parent's choice and it is none for us to judge one who should or shouldn't and who are selfish or ashamed. Just stop with this attitude or the madness!

Speaking or signing of restriction, in the same chapter, it stated that "the reception of spoken language for most Deaf individuals is extremely limited, which restricts the learning of English via the auditory channel. For many Deaf individuals, this restric­tion has resulted in great difficulty mastering reading, which is based on English." It even stated that "there are many Deaf individuals who are able to attain excellent mastery of reading English even without oral knowledge of English."

In conclusion, restricting Deaf children with or without HA/CIs to spoken language actually restricted English development.

So I rest my case and I want to move on to Part Two in a response to these same moms about AG Bell in the next blog post.


David said...

Hi Barb,

Your response is awesome! I have never been so happy to get more information about the research. Thank you so much for sharing them with us all including moms.

Beautiful and excellent article! That is the one we all want to show the world that Deaf children can do anything as long as they use ASL with many different options. Again beautiful!

By the way, thanks for joining us to ask AGBell and AVT to "TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!"


John said...


Again, you blew my mind how well you explain this and hope that those two Moms will start learning more about these truth facts.

And YES!, We need to ask AGBell and AVT(and their associates) to TEAR DOWN THIS "BERLIN" WALL!.
(Special thanks to Deafchip's new slogan)

Enough is Enough!

John Egbert

Jean Boutcher said...

Depriving deaf children of utilising their natural sign language is like cutting their hands off! The brains of children -- be they hearing or deaf, have the elasticity of learning several langauges during their first ten formative years. Many European children can speak, read, write, and sign in several languages. My two former students, one from Poland and the other from Sweden, knew four languages and five languages respectively. But, here in the USA, most, I repeat, most, Americans are so monolingual that they do not bother or want to learn a second language, ASL, to expose it to their deaf children. See Amy Cohen-Efron's "The Greatest Irony" DVD.

Jean Boutcher said...


Your blogpost is so powerful and
forceful and truthful -- awfully
truthful that it would be good of
you to submit a copy of it to CBS,
please! We educated ABC in the
early 1990s. Now CBS has to be
educated. Maybe you would
contemplate submitting another copy to NBC and PBS.

Thank you for your powerful post!

Anonymous said...


Finally you spoke about that you wear one hearing aid. At first I thought you are Deaf as not using hearing aid at all. Now of course my understanding you have better background between the different of hearing + deaf world also include you're with your deaf family and that is extra understanding. Yes I agree ASL expose first.
Yes it is time we work to do "To Tear This Awful System Wall Down".


Dianrez said...

Barb, you rock! The only way to stop outdated research from supporting restricted oral/AVT methods is to do as you just did--tell the whole story and how later research refuted the earlier.

Additionally, past children who came to school already fluent in ASL were taught by the school not to use ASL, that ASL was a bad language, and that talking was better. This conflict could not have helped English development until ASL was finally allowed in the middle school years.

Anonymous said...

It's all about statistics. YOU may have done well, but statistically, deaf kids who sign do NOT do well with spoken or written English.

Implanted, oral kids statistically do far better than their manual peers. It's all about what your goals are. Your goals (and your goals for deaf kids) is not the same as the goals parents have, which include ability to mainstream easily, converse easily with peers, etc.

ASL has been allowed in a whole bunch of deaf schools for several years now. Guess what? Test scores still stink. It's not working. Unless the entire world is deaf, this is not the way parents want to educate their children.

Barb DiGi said...

Hi David! It is my pleasure getting the research straight back on the table. Right on about Deaf children can do anything and better with ASL!

John, yes there are too many misconceptions going on there that AG Bell/AVT have done a good job presenting a false picture about those who acquire ASL as a first language will suffer in second language development.

Jean, ditto! Yes, I will considering sharing it the networks sometimes.

Davy, yes I did not talk much about my hearing aid because it is not what I am all about. I am trying to make a point that although I have been auditory trained and all but ASL as my first language, it doesn't mean I am not able to be successful.

Thanks, Dianrez! You made a point that too often, schools for the Deaf don't use ASL as a language of instruction taking away the window of opportunity for the ASL young users to bridge to English successfully.

Anonymous said...

John Critser says:

I am really in awe of not only your writing skills, but bringing to accuracy the information to counter the misinformation and to dispel the myths that the poor moms are subjected to, you are a Deaf hero. Not only with the bat incident, but in support of ASL, in contributing to the ripples of ASL circulating all over the place.

You're a hall of famer, too, Barb.

Barb DiGi said...

Anon, please use your nickname. Am I talking to a mom or another mom? Is this the same person who have been acting like a troll or what?

First of all, you are right about statistics. Historically, statistics have shown in the Babbidge Report that oralism is a failure.

Secondly, you are talking about Deaf kids who sign do not do well with spoken or written English. That is a myth! I have two Deaf children who excel in reading and writing that their evaluation showed at and in some areas beyond grade level as compared to hearing peers. Also, there has been a strong research statement going around for a long time that Deaf children from Deaf parents tend to do better in academics.

In a similar vein, Daniels (1993) found that hearing children whose first language was American Sign Language had English skills superior to their monolingual peers. In other words, exposing a Deaf child with CI to Sign Language early is not considered to be risky or detrimental.

Rather, for those Deaf children who have the use of their residual hearing and CI and who do have enough access to the spoken signal to acquire speech naturally, the benefits of early bilingualism in the spoken language of the home and the signed language of the Deaf community are considered to be an asset for the child. (Ahlström, in press; Preisler, 1983, 1990).

Instead of typing it over and over again, allow me to copy and paste to what I have explained in my previous post.

For 128 years, the AG Bell organization has plowed their way onto the political scene by spreading the practice of oralism. They have not really been challenged since the days of the debates with Edward Miner Gallaudet. In early 1900's, George Veditz made efforts to preserve sign language by recording signers' speeches and performances on film, due to the threat of manual practices being banned in programs and schools all over the country. Some of the schools for the Deaf adopted an oral-only philosophy and shunned the manual practices completely. Some of the schools kept both methods. Nevertheless, the students were oppressed and they suffered the consequences, thereby being prevented from developing strong literacy skills and achieving higher levels of education and career success in the mid 20th century.

In the 70's, Total Communication (TC) came in the picture because of the findings of the Babbidge Report in 1965 which declared oralism to be a failure. However, the problem with TC was that it included a broad range of varied communication modes, such as Signed English, Signing Exact English, Simultaneous Communication, and what used to be called "Pidgin Signed English." ASL was not yet accepted as a primary at that time, although it was a part of the TC package. For as long as anyone can remember, the average deaf high school graduate's reading level remained stubbornly low. Many deaf children did succeed, but overall, the figure still remained low.

Then the evidence of research began to come in: Deaf children of Deaf parents tended to do much better. More recently, study after study has been released showing that a natural signed language should be the default language of deaf children, since they are VISUAL learners. Independent bilingual-bicultural charter schools began to spring up in the 1980's, but only slowly. Too often, the main obstacle has been ignorance and fear which has sometimes had the effect of pushing parents away from bilingual approach. Parents then make the misguided choice of thinking that spoken English should be their Deaf children's primary language.

Too much propaganda has been marketed by the AG Bell Association for the Deaf (AGBAD), an organization which has persuaded parents to buy into their philosophy without really having the chance or taking the time to become educated about the benefits of the bilingual approach.

John said...

To Anonymous-2:49 pm

You said;
"ASL has been allowed in a whole bunch of deaf schools for several years now. Guess what? Test scores still stink."

Do you realize that over 70% of the Deaf students were dumped at the Deaf schools because of the failed "oral only ideology" by their "informed" decision parents. Most of their students started learning ASL and education way too late.

Thanks to AGBell and its associates for screwing up thousands of potential Deaf students starting when they were babies!

Do your homework before you mouth off!


Barb DiGi said...

One more thing to this Anon as I am putting my research hat away and putting on my personal one, you said that implanted, oral kids statistically do far better than their manual peers. Where is it anyway? Don't they do far off better with ASL? I have presented my research with sources but yours are hollow.

It is all about what the children's goals are, not necessarily my goal as a parent. They deserve 100% natural language access PERIOD! My Deaf children have the ability to mainstream in a school and interact with hearing children so thank you very much!

By the way, please study more about the facts that ASL has been oppressed in most Deaf schools and that the bilingual programs have shown success for most Deaf students. For you to declare that it is not working is FALSE! I have read many books on bilingualism (ASL/English) and studied and worked in the field more than a decade. I have credibility and for you make a such statement is dismissive. For you to dare to sidetrack that bilingual approach is a dead-end is an insult to my intelligence! Stop spreading false lies! I am not going to welcome you back if you continue to make empty statements without being rationale. I don't need lies posted in my blog!

David said...

John and Barb DiGi

I agree with your responses to the
Anonymous-2:49 pm! Now I have noticed that the propaganda and the Berlin wall have a lot in common! Wow, There are more fact findings for us to eliminate those destructive and false sickened misinformation and disinformation!


Karen Mayes said...

Response to the anonymous about test scores. We have to remember that unfortunately, the deaf schools are "dumping grounds". And also that there is a growing number of deaf students having additional disabilities (at least 52% of Indiana School for the Deaf's students has additional needs, which skew the test scores, unfortunately.)

I am on Education Committee under Indiana Association of the Deaf and I am quickly learning more about the mainstreamed deaf, oral deaf students (we have St. Joseph's school for the deaf here in Indianapolis, up to the age of 5 years old), and of course ISD, where my daughter attends. I am in favor for exposing deaf babies to ANYTHING that is visual to get their brains going. As for CIs, I have no problem with it as long as parents do the research with open hearts and cover all the bases. If CI children succeed, kudos for them. If not, there are always resources for them. We keep forgetting that with deafness, the brains tend to be more hard-wired to be visual.

There are many theories so we have to be thorough with reaching out to the parents (early intervention) and be fully informed on the differences between mainstream settings and deaf schools, etc. Also, there is a rising number of aural deaf learners, due to CI and AVT so it is a matter of ensuring to meet the needs and also making it clear that even though they might be aural learners, visual languages such as ASL would be very benefitial to expanding the cognition and in helping them succeed in their self-esteem and in their literacy road.

That is why I (as well as Raychelle, etc.) am encouraging for deaf schools to embrace the aural deaf students, to provide the resources to them and at the same for them to learn ASL... we are losing them to the mainstream academic settings. How can we see that the deaf students get the best of two worlds... deaf and hearing?

It all comes down to making sure that the information is not biased... however, the information come as biased for the reason of the reputation.

Anonymous said...


The average oral deaf high mainstream school graduate in the U.S. reads at a 3rd or 4th grade level. Most deaf children are born to hearing parents. While many parents do make an effort to learn sign language, it is usually not “pure” American Sign Language. Deaf children, who can't learn language skills by hearing, typically fall behind grade level in reading.

2. (Orally)St Joseph Institute for the Deaf : Do not have test report!
White, not Hispanic : 81 %
Hispanic: 7%
Black, not Hispanic 5%

In our weekly educational meetings, the focus is on information about hearing loss, language development, cochlear implants, and child development. We discuss strategies, techniques, and activities for helping children learn to talk.

3. (Orally) MOOG in St. Louis: Do not have test report!!!!
White, not Hispanic 48%
Asian/Pacific Islander 6%
Black, not Hispanic 2%
Hispanic 2%
Unspecified 42%

4. (Orally) CID: Student data was not reported for this school and also no test data report !!

5. (Orally) MOOG in Columbia: Student data was not reported for this school and also no test data report!(

6. Missouri School for the Deaf : Student data was not reported for this school and also no test data report.

Anonymous said...

yeah the truth is coming.
research will vertify what many of us have known for years; there are many benefits to learning ASL

are you ready ? smile

p.s. i am a Dad...i also had been a Mr.Mom for i am an involved parent...ahh let me start over with this

Karen Mayes said...

I have seen at how successful the Asian children are at schools... because of the strong parental involvement and because of exposure to more than one language at home and school.

My son is becoming familiar with Spanish (not fluent though...) He knows three languages now. He is thinking of taking Latin in the middle school (that is if he decides to stay mainstreamed... it is up to him.) My daughter's latest AR's test scores (Acceralated Reading) place her on the average between 2.5 and 2.9 grade level and she is only in 1st grade. I have seen how the teacher uses bilingual approach in the classroom (ASL in teaching and then reading English print... and she uses projecter a lot and has computers in her classroom. The first graders go to another classroom to borrow the laptops for their classwork.) And then the parents of my daughter's classmates are as involved as I am, having good rapport with the teacher.

It takes a village to raise a successful child... hearing or deaf. Jean Boutcher is right... it is better to have two or more languages.

Anonymous said...

John Critser says:

Anon, it is totally false and wrong to say that those who are oral do better statistically than than those who are educated bilingually and manually.

I AM ONE OF THOSE DEAF who grew up bilingually, orally and with ASL. I KNOW for a FACT that my learning English proficiently had NOTHING to do with having been raised oral. Why and why? Because, in my oral class, my English was BETTER than ALL of my classmates. ALL of them. SECONDLY, I started using ASL earlier than those classmates, and my English has not deteriorated since then. I started using ASL for the next 30 years. Thirty years after I started using ASL, I became a writer! How is that possible? I learned so much more using ASL. I acquired so many skills through ASL, that my writing essentially became better.

I have many oral friends, and I write better than all of them, combined. And one person who uses ASL, writes as well as I do, is BARB. I take the time to sit and read her blogs, because her writing is clear and clarifies everything.

She makes perfect sense and backs everything up.

To those that disagree with her blogs, do not because of her writing.

It is because they are in denial and still under bondage to myths, because of a 5-letter word:


Do away with your pride, the moms or the other mom, and stop thinking that if you start agreeing with Barb, you'll fail your children as parents. No. If you agree with Barb's rationale and with her citations, you have bettered yourself as a parent.

By opening up and by looking at more options.

To one of which is ASL, which is a beautifully choreographed native language.

John Lestina --- said...

I got an email from someone in past so here is: "I have an evidence right here in North Country New York about education system for mainstream schools. I am Deaf substitute teacher aide at mainstream schools. I found out that those few Deaf students including cochlear implant completed 12 years of mainstreaming but they did not meet their requirements to graduate. They would need to stay extra year or two to complete their requirements. Some stayed and the others dropped off. I am told that it has been that way since mainstream schools."

Oscar Serna said...

Also, I have to wonder at what the statistics meant by sign language? Because if it include messed up sign language (SEE, PSE, etc) it could had skewed the statistics as well.

Barb DiGi said...

Hi John, It is sad to see that we have to wait until a Deaf student "fails" in an oral setting in order to get dumped to a Deaf school. Why can't we take preventive measures? The teachers at Deaf schools are left to do the dirty job. The outsiders who get judge the students' performances need to realize that it all started out not having ASL as an early language acquisition and that they are not receiving a bilingual education.

Hi David again..yep, we need to continue to get the facts together to battle the ills of misconceptions.

Hi Karen..Thank you for sharing your invaluable input! How about if we put it the other way.. shouldn't we be encouraging mainstreaming teachers of the Deaf to embrace bilingual instruction? There are insufficient bilingual training in their teacher preparatory program and on the job professional training.

Anon 4:16: Interesting to note that there is a lack of test data report in Deaf Ed. but let me tell you what I have found so far about California School for the Deaf at Fremont:

On Friday evening, at an educational conference on the other side of the country in San Ramon, California, Dr. Henry Klopping, the longtime superintendent of the California School for the Deaf, Fremont (CSDF), said: "I am here because I believe in deaf people." In strongly worded remarks which were frequently interrupted by visual applause and enthusiastic cheers, Dr. Klopping spoke as part of a panel of community leaders, explaining that, of the deaf students who acquired American Sign Language from birth on or very early in life who attended CSDF from an early age, virtually 100% of those students so far have passed the California High School Exit Exam. That, contrasted with the dismal 8% exit-exam pass rate of deaf students overall in California, which includes the large majority of deaf students who are mainstreamed in classes in public schools along with non-deaf, hearing children.

Klopping lamented that many of his fellow educational leaders have become "blinded" and are unable to see the reality of the value and effectiveness of American Sign Language in Deaf education, and (as Dr. Klopping was implying) the value of deaf students attending separate schools and/or educational programs for the deaf. Klopping, who hears, made his remarks using ASL, allowing an interpreter to translate his remarks simultaneously into English, in a strong show of solidarity with the predominately Deaf audience.

Powerful, heh? It came from this

Anonymous said...

John ... 3:23pm
I copy and paste it down what you said:

" Do you realize that over 70% of the Deaf students were dumped at the Deaf schools because of the failed "oral only ideology" by their "informed" decision parents. Most of their students started learning ASL and education way too late"

John ... Can you please put the date or when that happen during between bad time because I was wonder those what years effect were dumped. I am curious..... Thanks


Barb DiGi said...

Actually Brian Riley helped me out to discover this information. I look forward to gather more data from schools for the Deaf using bilingual programs.

Anon 4:25..Glad you are finding out that there are benefits to learning ASL. Way to go Dad/Mr. Mom for being involved!

Karen, I am so happy to learn about your children's progress! Your daughter is so adorable and a smart cookie. I am really glad that things are working out and like you have pointed it out, parent involvement is one of the key elements to make a child soar.

Anon 5:02: Thanks for sharing your experience. I am really glad to know that ASL has helped you gain better English skills. You said it beautifully on this part: "It is because they are in denial and still under bondage of myths." It is hard to change one's mind that s/he has already set up a strong belief so that's why we need to continue to make our relevant messages heard for the readers to decide.

Hi John!! thanks for bringing in the observation from what this Deaf substitute teacher has seen. I am sadden to learn that these kids need to put off their graduation or dropped out. Knowing how difficult NYS system is when it comes to Regents testing (required to pass to get a high school diploma), it places a huge challenge and pressure on kids, both Deaf and hearing.

Hi Oscar! Good point about what sign language consists of? Are we talking about ASL or modes of communication? We need to be cautious when gathering data on how the students were taught in which language or mode of communication. As we know, the statistics may be skewed when counting the data from schools for the Deaf since there are some, if not most, students who do not even grow up using ASL.

John said...


I don't understand your question.

Go to any School for the Deaf and you will see that there are many deaf children from mainstreamed school are not in the same par as the normal Deaf students in communicative language.

It is still going on now and what different does it make which year.

My opinion is that it is getting worse each year because of the ideology of AGBell that failed many deaf children is more wide spread by brainwashing many naive parents.

Bilingual can solve all these problems but AGBell choose to be biased due to capitalism among CI industry, Speech Therapist, AVT self-interest concept to generate capitalism money. it is simple as that.

ASL is 100% guarantee to succeed and reguires no excess therapy as oral only method does.


Anonymous said...

Thanks John,

Yes I agree with you about getting worse years by years as dumped by growing in anywhere USA. I thought you meant one place dumped area. Of course I am on your side. Yep the key is we need to break the crap this wall down junk old fashion way.


Carole said...

John said: " Do you realize that over 70% of the Deaf students were dumped at the Deaf schools because of the failed "oral only ideology" by their "informed" decision parents. Most of their students started learning ASL and education way too late"

The reason for this is the language critical acquisition period. There is a critical period for language acquisition as theorized by Noam Chomsky and other language researchers. This means that the time for learning a language is limited in humans. Some say the age is 7, and some say the age is the onset of puberty. This means that if you don't learn some kind of language, be it spoken or signed, prior to age 7, you will never develop a language as fully as someone who was exposed at an early age to language.

There are documented cases, including that of Genie (hearing, not Deaf), who was deprived of any language at all until the age of 13; she was subsequently rigorously taught English, but was unable to form more than 3 word sentences. When tested, her brain function performed at the mentally retarded level.

What I'm saying is: many Deaf students who failed with the oral/AVT system did not develop ANY language prior to age 7. When they were finally sent to the Deaf school at age 14 or later to learn ASL, it was too late. The critical acquisition period had passed, and that is why so many Deaf students from Deaf schools showed low reading scores.

Here is some research to back up what I am saying:
"Peak proficiency in the language, in control over the sound system as well as the grammatical structure, is displayed by those whose exposure to that language begins in infancy or very early childhood. Such early learners show not only flawless control over the accent and rhythm of the language but also full and productive control over the syntax and morphology. With increasing ages of exposure, there is a decline in average proficiency, beginning as early as ages 4 to 6 and continuing until proficiency plateaus for adult learners. (Johnson and Newport, 1989; Newport, 1990).

"Does the acquisition of a language early in life reduce the effects of age on later language learning? This question has been examined by comparing hearing and deaf individuals' acquisition of English or ASL as either a first or a second language, and (if as a second language) after early exposure to either a spoken or signed language. (amayberry et al., 2002). The results show that age of first language onset has a significant effect, while language modality does not; late first language acquisition results in lower performance than does late second language acquisition, regardless of whether the languages in question were spoken or signed."

These quotes were taken from Cognitive Psychology, Journal of Memory and Language, Nature, and Cognitive Science.

Carole said...

Here is a great article on the critical period for language acquisition: