Should We Teach Deaf Babies & Kids ASL?
Sign Language is more than just a language. It is a communication system used for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals. In America, American Sign Language (ASL) is used to communicate
with those who have severe or profound hearing loss. Early and continued language acquisition through the use of sign language will help a deaf baby or child to communicate. Learning a second language such as English, will be easier for a child who has a base language to reference. Using a bilingual English and ASL method will be better for the deaf child’s education than an English only method.
When a Deaf child can look at a successful Deaf adult, they learn that anything is possible. The course content in the Residential and Deaf Day Schools include subjects that are not included in mainstream schools such as Deaf History and Deaf Culture. When the child learns about Deaf History and Deaf Culture, they will think of themselves as part of that culture instead of as a disabled individual. The positive influences that come from learning this are limitless.
Children who are able to see others that are similar to themselves in a positive light can have a higher self-esteem than those who don’t. The child will learn directly from those that have been through the same experiences as themselves and know how to adapt to the environment. While in a hearing environment, there will be no emphasis placed on other cultures or languages, unless it happens to be that language or culture’s celebratory month (such as Black History Month in February). Not many hearing environments have any knowledge of Deaf Culture, History or Community unless they are involved in the Deaf community in one way or the other.
A child’s language is not strictly an either-or situation when it comes to ASL and English. Rather a combination of the two and early access to a visual language is best for the child. Access to a visual language at an early age will allow the child to develop cognitively and socially. The child’s future in education as well as in the world will benefit from early and continued language access and acquisition. There are many options to choose from when deciding how to raise a Deaf child. Communication and language access should be the number one priority when deciding how to raise and educate a Deaf child.