LSA launches new Language section for language and public policy
Starting with the June 2014 issue, the LSA is pleased to inaugurate a new section of Language devoted to issues of language and public policy. The first article in this new section, written by researchers from UC San Diego, Gallaudet University and other institutions, argues for the necessity of teaching all deaf children a sign language in their early years, even if they receive cochlear implants or other hearing aids.
"Ensuring language acquisition for deaf children: What linguists can do", by Tom Humphries and co-authors, challenges policies where parents of deaf children have been encouraged to focus on spoken language fluency when teaching their children their first language. Humphries et al. recommend that "All deaf newborns and newly deafened small children should learn a sign language, regardless of whether they receive a CI [(cochlear implant)] or a hearing aid." The acquisition of a child's first language in the first few years of life is vital to many critical cognitive skills, and these skills can be developed with either a spoken or signed language, but prior studies have demonstrated that "many children do not acquire a spoken language fully" using a CI.
Humphries et al. make several further recommendations for deaf language learning, aimed at the medical and linguistic communities along with groups including families of deaf children, spiritual leaders, and counselors. They also discuss their ongoing efforts to educate these groups, including the creation of an "option grid" to help physicians and families make decisions for the education of deaf newborns.
"Ensuring language acquisition for deaf children: What linguists can do" is available in the online edition of the June 2014 issue of Language. The LSA encourages potential contributors to submit articles for future editions of the Language and Public Policy section of Language; more information is available on the LSA website.