A group of four children of varying ages cluster together, smiling at the camera. One child makes the sign for "I love you".

The authors of this article argue that policies should promote sign language for Deaf children. Years of research has confirmed that Deaf children who learn sign language at an early age do better at learning a written language as well. Deaf children benefit from sign language whether they use a cochlear implant or not. Research also confirms that the first few years of life are very important for learning language. The older the child, the more difficulty they will have learning any language at all.

However, many doctors, spiritual leaders, and others who advise parents of Deaf children are unfamiliar with this research. They often misguide parents into avoiding all sign language and using only speech and lip reading. Parents then only choose sign language if and when their Deaf child fails to do well without it. This creates the risk that the Deaf child may never become fluent in either spoken or sign language.

This article summarizes the research that explains why policies need to encourage using sign language with all Deaf children, with or without a cochlear implant. It also explains how to ensure that doctors and other people who advise parents know more about how children learn language. The team of authors describe how they have been advocating for better policies in the United States and in other countries as well.

 

Photo credit: timabbott on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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