Early Cognitive Development and American Sign Language

By Conflitti, Cynthia | The Exceptional Parent, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Early Cognitive Development and American Sign Language


Conflitti, Cynthia, The Exceptional Parent


The earlier a hearing loss is identified,

the better it is for both child

and parent. Early hearing loss

identification and intervention is crucial

to these children. The search for

solutions only begins with a diagnosis.

Hearing parents may be devastated

upon learning that their child has a

hearing loss since it is perceived as a

medical problem, not a communication

problem. Parents usually notice

something is "wrong" with their child,

but are often told not to worry or not

"push the child too fast."

Often, children who are hearing

impaired are in their learning years

before parents take action to address a

lack of speech or attention-seeking

behavior. Children with hearing loss

learn using the primary sense available

to them--vision. It is also important to

remember that they cannot overhear

conversations among other children or

adults in the same way hearing

children do. This affects their cognitive

development. As a result, they

may be labeled as having some form of

mental retardation.

Choices in Learning

Learning, to most people, is

absorbing knowledge, the

perceptions, concepts, and

functions of the world

around them. When we think of

learning, we also think about teachers

and schools. What are the learning

choices for preschool children who are

hearing impaired?

Children with hearing loss, and their

hearing parents, need program and

early intervention options in language

acquisition and normal development.

These options can also assist and

assure parents in understanding and

monitoring their development.

A preschool for children with hearing

loss offers an ideal, visually stimulating

environment to promote learning through

a non-verbal mode of communication.

The preschool's goal should be to

develop communication skills which

will ensure that children can advance

at a normal pace by the time they start

public school with an interpreter, or

attend a special school.

Verbal communication is important,

but learning a language is critical for

children with hearing loss, even if it

involves no speaking skills. A child

who learns sign language in the toddler

years will have better comprehension

and understanding of why and how

language is used.

Sign Language

Using sign language along with

English in the preschool setting

promotes linguistic development.

Even with recent audiological

advances, linguistic input for many

children is limited to what they can lip-read.

Lip-reading can be very difficult,

even for people with developed English

skills. …

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