Ideal education for deaf children

Harlan Lane, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern, answered to the questions. Two are excerpted from the source:

Is there an ideal learning environment for the deaf and hard-of-hearing?

"By law, hearing-impaired children have a right to education in the 'least restrictive environment.' For some, who can speak and hear, albeit with difficulty, that means a regular 'mainstream' classroom.

"Others are less restricted if interpreters are employed in special classrooms locally (provided the child knows ASL and thus can understand the interpreter).

"For a great many deaf children, however, the school for the deaf is the least restrictive. There, the pupils have fluent use of their best language, their sign language, which is used to teach English and other subjects; they have deaf role models, a positive identity, extracurricular activities and incidental learning.

"It is possible to integrate the two approaches: Some residential programs bus their students to the local schools for selected integrated classes, thereby enriching the residential school curriculum.

"When local schools cannot afford interpreters, the integration tends to focus on arts and physical education."

With new technologies to assist the deaf, like cochlear implants, will ASL one day be rendered obsolete? Why do some parents steer children to use technologies to learn to 'speak and listen' rather than nurturing them to use their native language, ASL?

"For the minority of children and adults who lost their hearing after acquiring English, the implants can provide helpful supplementary cues for lip-reading.

"However, most deaf children, as the implant teams acknowledge, remain hearing-impaired after surgery; sooner or later these children discover the power and beauty of ASL, which becomes their primary language.

"In addition, most children of deaf parents learn ASL as their first language. Finally, many families cannot afford the expensive surgery and prolonged rehabilitative therapy and embrace ASL by default. So ASL is not likely to become obsolete."

"Understandably, many hearing parents with a deaf child seek a decisive remedy and are quick to accept the frequently overstated claims of the surgery-prosthesis-therapy complex.

"Parents are unlikely to learn about the Deaf World nor learn from it. They do not realize that deaf children of deaf parents, who learn ASL as a native language, far outperform deaf children of hearing parents in mastery of English, in grades, in emotional adjustment, in likelihood of going on to college and more.

"Moreover, in our recent book, 'The People of the Eye: Deaf Ethnicity and Ancestry,' we make the case that deaf children are born into an ethnic group, with its own culture, values, customs and language -- American Sign Language.

"Hence, parents of a child born deaf or early deafened have an ethical obligation, like parents of a trans-racially adopted child, to assure that their child learns the language and culture of its birthright."

This documentation project follows a baby's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, week by week from gazing at birth to manual babbling, to first words just before the first birthday in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.

The second-year and third-year documentation continues to follow the same child's language and phonological acquisition and literacy development in ASL on a weekly basis from the one-word stage to two-word and multiple utterances.

The documentary continues to follow the same child's ASL language and literacy development on a regular basis from age three to four. It surveys ASL phonological acquisition and more complex utterances.

These posts on ASL-English bilingualism, language acquisition, and bilingual education may be of an interest for parents who raise a bilingual-bimodal child in ASL (or another signed language) and English (or another written and/or spoken language of its respective) as well as informative and educational for ASL specialists, educators, and professionals.