Deaf News: Researchers to examine whether early use of sign language gives deaf children best chance of development

Posted on February 12, 2016

An article in UConn Today has revealed how researchers are examining whether deaf children should learn sign language to give them the best chance of developing language and other skills at the same rate as non-deaf children.


A team of researchers at the University of Connecticut is reexamining a decades-long debate as to whether deaf children should learn sign language to maximize their potential for optimal development.

Research has shown that children born deaf frequently exhibit learning deficits and as a result, often underperform in school. Yet research on deaf children has also found children from signing families develop language, cognition and literacy on normal timetables.

One widespread view is that learning deficits stem from lack of auditory experience. And, with the advent of universal newborn hearing screening and improved technologies such as cochlear implants – surgically implanted devices that provide access to sound – more and more deaf children are relying on spoken language from an early age.

While some herald this as a victory, others point to the variability in spoken language outcomes as evidence that excluding sign language may be a risky approach.

“The problem is that we can’t reliably predict who’s going to succeed with the spoken-language approach, and who isn’t,” said Matthew Hall, postdoctoral fellow and the lead researcher. “By the time it’s clear that a child’s spoken language proficiency hasn’t supported healthy development across the board, it may be too late for that child to master sign language.”

Read the full article here:


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