The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Friday, October 23, 2009]


Parents, please sign with your deaf children.

Deaf children with strong signing skills have stronger English literacy skills (yes, compared with deaf children who speak).

Deaf children who sign have a more positive self-concept. That's psychobabble for feeling good about themselves.

Deaf children who sign are no worse at spoken language than their deaf peers who do not sign--in fact, they have better spoken language skills. FYI, language is where it's at in education. If children can't say their /r/ correctly, their education will probably not be affected. In my school district, we frequently do not pick up hearing children with /r/ problems, due to lack of educational impact. Language and the concepts learned through language will have a direct impact on every child's education. Why is it that parents are willing to buy the story that children can be bilingual in any combination of languages except ASL and English? Oh, right, because if they learn ASL, they won't be motivated to learn English. Foolishness. Engage your common sense and do not believe everything you hear just because a person with abbreviations following their name said it.

Deaf children who sign have better relationships with their parents and experience fewer communication breakdowns with their families.

Deaf children who sign can develop their brains from birth (or at least from identification of their deafness), instead of waiting until they are old enough to receive a cochlear implant. No, it will not make their brain develop in a way that will prevent them from learning spoken language. This is hogwash. This idea is propagated by those who stand to benefit monetarily from parents buying into it. There is zero research to back it. There is, however, research to back the idea that with the brain, if you don't use it, you lose it. A child deprived of language input (and don't tell me that hearing aids and lipreading provide adequate language input for an infant, because I will laugh in your face) will slowly lose their intellectual capacity. The brain is the most plastic and most rapidly developing during the first year of life. Unused neural connections are dying every day during the first year of life. The very year wasted waiting for a cochlear implant.

Deaf children who sign are able to acquire language in an age-appropriate manner. Deaf children do not have full access to spoken language, even with cochlear implants. That's why they need therapy to learn language, rather than acquiring language naturally. They do have full access to sign language.

Deaf children who sign are able to listen and understand spoken language using a cochlear implant or hearing aid.

Deaf children who sign are able to behave appropriately just as hearing children do. Just a quick story: a family I knew was told by a teacher of the deaf (who herself was deaf and raised orally) that they needed to stop signing with their four-year-old child, so that he would learn to hear and speak using his cochlear implant. The mother trusted this teacher and followed her advice. Within a few weeks, the child's behavior had seriously deteriorated, and his mother was at wits end with him. The oral program referred her to a behavior specialist. They worked on behavior modification. The situation dragged on for months as they visited with the behavior specialist often and even tried a pediatric psychiatrist. His mother finally followed her instincts and allowed him to communicate freely again. He was back to normal by the end of the week, and they were able to get rid of the rewards charts, tracking sheets, and time out chair.

Deaf children who sign are able to acquire age-appropriate social skills. Many professionals take it as a given that deaf children will need social skills training. It doesn't have to be that way.

Deaf children who sign are able to do everything hearing children can do. Think, learn, speak, listen, and achieve. Sign with your deaf children. They will thank you later.

I will step down from my soapbox now.


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