Language deprivation in deaf children

Many deaf children with cochlear implants are deprived of natural language acquisition during the critical period of language development as results of oralism (or "Listening and Spoken Language") and phonocentric beliefs. Some CI and oralism programs don't allow sign language.

While some other deaf children with CI do okay more or less using speech only, other marginalized deaf children, who don't do well in speech training, could have the same language acquisition if they were provided with a natural language (a signed language). Not only they are deprived of language acquisition, but they are also not given the opportunity to be bilinguals.

Bilingualism guarantees all deaf children with language acquisition in both languages (e.g. ASL and English). Some deaf individuals may vocally-speak well. Others may not. But, at least all deaf individuals can write and read English on par with English speakers if they are provided bilingualism from the earliest age. Some bilinguals may be predominantly ASL speakers with excellent English literacy and some other bilinguals may be predominantly English speakers in addition to ASL.

Phonocentric misconceptions and myths

Deafness itself is NOT the cause of language delay or language deprivation; though, it is often a scapegoat. It's the phonocentric systemic oppression.

Many hearing people believe that signing hinders a speech development in a deaf child with CI. Studies show it's not true. Both speech and signing are modalities which are independent of language. The more languages (in both modalities) one grows up using, the more cognitive benefits one would acquire.

Neuroscience and lingustics studies show abundant evidence that sign language is no less than speech language. They activate the similar lingustic regions of the left brain. They are on the similar milestones of language acqusition from birth. When linguistic regions of the brain are injured (aphasia), the results show the similarity between the modalities. And so on.

A study shows that "Deaf children of hearing parents have age-level vocabulary growth when exposed to ASL sign language by 6 months of age."

The objective of this study is "to examine whether children who are deaf or hard of hearing who have hearing parents can develop age-level vocabulary skills when they have early exposure to a sign language."

The result of this is that "Deaf and hard of hearing children with hearing parents who were exposed to ASL in the first 6 months of life had age-expected receptive and expressive vocabulary growth. ... early vocabulary skills are robust predictors of development across domains." -- Source

What Deaf people experience

Art by Storme Heidi
Art by Heidi Storme, Feb. 7, 2017

"Technology-based thinking has taken away the natural language input of the Deaf. This doll (a character of me as an adult) is the result of taking away natural language acquisition when I was a child. The adult is sad because of the block and harm that LSL (Listening and Spoken Language) approach created."

"Image description: a washed out, stitched up, doll character (with my features, locked hair) in a dark drab palette. Over one eye is the exterior magnet to a CI, making a frown at the mouth is the OTE piece (hearing aid style), both these are in stark contrast to the drab, they are a hot pink. On the chest is also something alluding to a ridiculous trump, yellow coiffed skull." -- Heidi Storme, 2017.

This work of art is one of many, many art works of the similar expression and experience of Deaf people.

"The lower ground in this analogy is to not require ASL to be provided an option, but then it's easy for oralist advocates to push their platform even further (eg: AGB) whereas the Deaf community has no say. Oralists already have speech training and cochlear implantation, as they are already well known options. Think of it this way, if we don’t require ASL to be provided as an option, then how is it fair for everyone?" -- Toby Fitch, 2016.

Watch Sanjay Gulati (M.D., Harvard Medical School)'s highly valuable presentation, "Language Deprivation Syndrome".

Video description: "The single greatest risk faced by Deaf people is inadequate exposure to a usable first language. Dr. Gulati will review recent research which validates the anatomical basis and time course of the critical period for first language acquisition, and which shows the risks to the development of empathic abilities among children who are language-deprived."

Maximalizing language acquisition in the brain is a priority, regardless of which language one uses, regardless of the modality, regardless of the majority vs minority, etc. Abundant hard sciences such as linguistics and neuroscience show that ASL is as real and natural as English. ASL functions the same in the linguistic regions of the brain as English.


"Language Deprivation" (2022) by Wyatte Hall.

Related posts

Related posts: What hard science tells you about sign language

This post is a critique based on the work of art titled "I interesting the hamster". The image describes an experience and perspective of Deaf students in an oppressed educational setting of oralism.

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