Sign Language for Deaf Infants: A Key Intervention for a Developmental Emergency

Summary (Abstract)

Working at a specialized clinic for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) children, I participated in an evaluation of a 7-year-old girl with a history of profound congenital sensorineural hearing loss. Despite having received bilateral cochlear implants at 2 years old, our evaluation revealed significant language delay. Her vocabulary was limited to a few single words, and she was not able to communicate in full grammatical sentences. As part of her treatment, her parents had been instructed by her team of medical providers to avoid any sign language as they suggested it would prevent her from learning to speak. Instead, her parents were advised to be patient and allow her auditory rehabilitation to maximize her language development alone. For this patient, the lack of early introduction of accessible language may have contributed to her language delay. Unfortunately, this patient's experiences with language deprivation are not uncommon for D/HH children.

Video Transcript
[Transcript: Opening scene: A South Asian woman with black hair is wearing a black shirt under a white lab coat. A name tag appears for a short time. This name tag shows \\\"Poorna Kushalnagar, Ph.D., author and public health researcher.\\\" On the bottom right, there is a white text: Arielle Spellun, MD, and Poorna Kushalnagar, PhD. Sign Language for Deaf Infants: A Key Intervention for a Developmental Emergency. Clinical Pediatrics, 2018. This will remain there on the very bottom right for the entire duration of the video. “My name is Poorna Kushalnagar. I collaborate with Arielle Spellun. She is a pediatrician. I am a developmental psychologist and a public health researcher. We recently published a paper in the Clinical Pediatrics journal. As discussed in this article, many parents of deaf children go to pediatricians asking for advice related to interventions and communication choices. Because they go to pediatricians, it means that it is important that we become knowledgeable with ways that work best for deaf children. So, we can work with families to identify ways to improve language acquisition among deaf children.” Next scene: A young South Asian girl with black hair is wearing a black shirt. A name tag appears for a short time. This name tag shows \\\"Hiruni Hewapathirana, middle school student.\\\" “To date, research stated that most of deaf and hard of hearing people have lower reading and writing skills, lower education and employment accomplishments, increased emotional and social struggles, and poor health outcomes, including depression, not seeing doctors, low health knowledge. These are not results of being deaf or hard of hearing. These poor outcomes are influenced by limited or lack of language access during their childhood.” Next scene: A White woman with a ponytail in a white lab coat. On the bottom right, white text is shown: Arielle Spellun, M.D., Author and Pediatrician “When I worked with deaf and hard of hearing children, I evaluated a deaf girl who was 7 years old. She was profoundly deaf and had two cochlear implants that she got when she was 2 years old. My evaluation showed that she had a serious language delay. She had a limited vocabulary and knew a few words. She couldn’t communicate in full sentences. Her parents were advised by another pediatrician to not use sign language, because she would never learn how to speak if she learned sign language. Her parents were advised by another pediatrician to not use sign language, because they thought she would never learn how to speak if she learned sign language. So, this girl had no language throughout her childhood, which is a possible reason she showed language delay. This girl is not the only patient with language delay; many other deaf and hard of hearing children have the same problem. Next scene: A White man in a blue shirt. On the bottom right, white text is shown: Andrew Biskupiak, Graduate student “Those deaf and hard of hearing children who have no access to visual language and are dependent on hearing have more risks for fatigue and poor language development, compared with those children who have access to visual language.” Next scene: A White woman in a blue shirt. On the bottom right, white text is shown: Tara Holcomb, Graduate student “As it is 21st century now, there are many improvements and advances in technology for deaf and hard of hearing children. It is important that we recognize that those technologies come with limitations. We need to include, support, and encourage the use of sign language for deaf and hard of hearing children as our natural practice. As a standard for deaf and hard of hearing children\\\'s development, we encourage the use of sign language. This will help prevent serious and permanent consequences for deaf and hard of hearing children who experience lack of access to language and language deprivation.”]

Author(s)

Spellun, A. & Kushalnagar, P.

Publication Date

2018

Journal

Clinical Pediatrics

Volume

57

Issue

14

DOI

10.1177/0009922818778041
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