Thursday, January 31, 2008

In a Reponse to Paula's Questions

Since DBC made a very long response to Paula, we feel that it may be worth posting since it gives out more supporting research links to these questions that some parents may have in mind. We want you to keep an open mind to see the benefits of raising your Deaf child(ren) in a bilingual environment. Thank you for reading!

Paula said:

You said, " is important not to overlook that the bilingual children tend to retain better cognitive skills and have advanced academic skills." Where is the proof of this statement? Can you direct me to a published, unbiased research study?

You also said, "Deaf babies have been deprived of accessible natural language exposure..." which doesn't make sense. When have babies been deprived? Parents who teach their babies to listen and speak are not depriving them of anything. They are giving them access and understanding of the things they hear and the ability to communicate with anyone they choose. ASL can be taught at any time, spoken language cannot as the window of opportunity is before the child is 5 years old.

I'm not saying that parents should choose one or the other, that is for THEM to decide. Not you, not me, not anyone else.


Thank you for your interest and inquiring about the DBC's mission. We are more than happy to share you the research studies.

There are a lot more research studies on bilingual issues found in books (i.e. Mahshie) and journals (i.e. Journal of Deaf Studies and Education). Feel free to go to the library and surf the net to do some readings to learn more about bilingual studies.

As for now, we can start with the provided resource links found in the right column. One of the links that you can click on the link that allows you to download the article on "
The Impact of Sign Language on the Cognitive Development of Deaf Children" written by Cyril Courtin.

We would like to share you another link that stated:

"In those instances where the child's hearing loss is mild enough that both languages can be learned through natural processes of interaction (rather than training), the effects of this early bilingualism are not considered a threat to the child's development of spoken or signed language but rather a positive factor in the child's overall development (Preisler, 1983, 1990). Cummins and Swain (1986) cite numerous studies conducted since the early 1960s reporting that bilingual children function at a significantly higher level than monolingual children on various measures of cognitive abilities. In a similar vein, Daniels (1993) found that hearing children whose first language was Sign Language had English skills superior to their monolingual peers. In other words, exposing a hard of hearing child to Sign Language early is not considered to be risky or detrimental (Ahlström, in press; Preisler, 1983, 1990). Rather, for those hard of hearing children 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."

As you can see, there are more than several researchers finding the benefits of early bilingualism since it is not conducted by the same researcher.

DBC knows that Deaf babies are not receiving information 100% if they are limited to spoken English. Most of the hearing babies are not able to use correct speech from birth to 24 months and it has been recommended for them to sign where they are able to better express their thoughts. It doesn't make sense to expect Deaf babies to speak and listen without signs especially that they don't have complete hearing. The "window of opportunity" to enable speech and auditory skills is not a natural way for Deaf babies to learn since they are learning "skills" whereas "the window of opportunity" is to acquire an accessible, natural language, ASL, that is, which is much more crucial for language development. Learning ASL later has bad effects as well, although not apparently as bad as speech. The current trend to educate deaf children bilingually—with the use of American Sign Language—has opened new possibilities for developing spoken English.

Please see the link:

"According to Barbara Haskins, M.D., an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Virginia, language deprivation definitely affects cognitive function. Dr. Haskins is a specialist in treating deaf patients on the deaf ward of Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virgina. There is a window of opportunity to acquire language. If that window is missed, individuals tend to display cognitive defects later in life. Many of her patients were raised by hearing parents in rural areas who only communicated orally or in simple gestures. In an article in Psychiatric News she explained, "My patients only saw talking heads and moving lips, which did not stimulate the left side of the brain that sets up rules for language and thought." (3)

and the link about how ASL helps develop spoken English:

"In fact, the experience of many speech-language therapists in such environments has been that when deaf children develop a solid language base in American Sign Language, teaching spoken communication is easier."

When you said, "I'm not saying that parents should choose one or the other, that is for THEM to decide. Not you, not me, not anyone else." We already mentioned that in our letter that it is the choice of the parents to decide if her son is to grow up without using natural sign language. However, we cannot leave the parents in the dark if they are not getting the full picture. As a part of the Deaf Community, it is our responsibility to educate what is the best for the Deaf child. We don't believe in directing the parents to make ONE choice or another since we are offering the whole package by including both languages that are much more beneficial to Deaf babies/children.




diber said...

thanks for those links!

I wade around in Clerc Ctr articles now and then. It's nice to have a few in a consolidated place.

David said...


Your response is very clear and all parents should read it.

I strongly encourage you and DBC to make DVD programs for all new parents to watch.

We need to find funder(s) to make DVD program and send them out to new parents somehow.


MB said...

Amen! We are signing AND speaking with our 13 month HOH daughter and she is quickly picking them BOTH up. She speaks almost as many words as her hearing peers and signs many more.

Rhonda said...

I really have a problem with anyone saying that not teaching a deaf child sign language is denying them their natural language. Your natural language is the one you are exposed to. Chidren are not born predisposed to a certain language but rather to language ability in general. Read any paper on language acquisition to find that. This is one quote I found in a quick search, "Children with Japanese genes do not find Japanese any easier than English, or vice-versa; they learn whichever language they are exposed to."
Sure, being bilingual might be useful for all children, but the languages chosen should include first and foremost the one the parents use in front of the kids, and second, whichever one they decide (French, English, Spanish, ASL, etc). A parent who is not fluent in ASL who teaches it as a primary language is either not going to be very successful, or is going to at some point get behind their child and not be able to communicate fully with him or her in that language. Telling me that I need to teach my son ASL is no different than telling me I need to teach him Spanish. I would first have to learn it, and as an adult, would not be very likely to learn it fluently. So, while your idea of bilinguilism being preferential is intriguing , I don't understand your insistance on ASL being one of the languages.

Kelly said...

I believe that it such a great thing to teach a child both sign language and speaking...throw in another language in there and your child will be much more advanced than other children. Have you heard about PepsiCo's deaf commercial they will be playing during the Superbowl this Sunday? If you are interested here is the youtube to behind the scenes at Bob's House of the commercial...

DBC said...


Since we are talking about children who are deaf, it is not considered natural for them to use English because it is an auditory language. Also, it requires them to spend hours and hours of drills in learning speech, speechreading and listening. How can you possibly call this a natural language for them?

What you are debating doesn’t apply to Deaf children since we cannot accept this statement “Children with Japanese genes do not find Japanese any easier than English, or vice-versa; they learn whichever language they are exposed to” since it applies to hearing children. You need to look at Deaf children as a separate case since what you are saying is comparing apples to oranges.

Keep in mind that natural means it is organic and that it happens without a great deal of effort and drills. For Deaf babies to be immersed in an ASL environment are able to pick up easily and faster than they do with English.

When you said about parents who are not fluent in ASL attempting to teach their Deaf child as a primary language is not what we are suggesting. Parents can learn signs, sure, but to be familiar with ASL grammatical features requires time and opportunities to interact with ASL users. In this case, there should be support system coming from Early Intervention (E.I) and its providers by introducing new parents to Deaf mentors where they are able to come in and chat with the babies modeling to parents. There are services that are offered to families to enhance their ASL skills such as using the Shared Reading Program sponsored by Gallaudet and Parent Partnership offered by E.I. Today, we live in an advanced technological age that allows us to have more access than ever before so there should be no reason to limit parents from learning ASL.

Keep in mind that parents learning ASL is for the Deaf child. This is to enable a Deaf child-centered interest since it is not about the parents’ interest or their preference to use spoken English. Coming from national Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, it stated that “….. research has implications for early education of all children because it stressed the need for early language exposure at critical times in development. And now, it is equally important in education for the deaf to ensure linguistic competency in ASL.

I am not quite sure what do you mean when you said, "I don't understand your insistance on ASL being one of the languages." Do you mean you are not classifying ASL as one of the languages?

DBC said...

For more information about NAD's statement "that acquisition of language from birth is a human right for every person, and that deaf infants and children should be given the opportunity to acquire and develop proficiency in ASL as early as possible.",Go to NAD website.

MB said...

Our state does not have a deaf mentor program. I would love it if your blog or website could include referrals to people across the country willing to be deaf mentors.

DBC said...

Thank you MB for inquiring.

DBC recognizes the need for establishing a guideline to have Deaf mentorship and Parent Partnership programs.

Two of the DBC members are currently in contact with the National EI Center by giving them a presentation soon. We will share it with you later about these programs.