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Sign Language gives Deaf children the ability to learn with their eyes the same way hearing children learn with their ears. Hearing children begin learning at birth and processing the sounds to which they are exposed. Around age two they are beginning to give back those sounds in meaningful, simplified dialog, such as: “mommy,” “go bye-bye,” and “want cookie.” By three years old they are speaking in complete sentences. Around four or five, they converse fluently and begin the task of learning to read and write their language. If Deaf children have that same opportunity at birth or as soon after as possible, it increases their chances of developing conversational language, the first step to written communication. A non-hearing child cannot just “pick it up” and internalize English as hearing children can and do. Sign Language is a visual language, making the world fully accessible to children whose primary method of learning is visual, not auditory. It allows a child to grasp even abstract concepts. Armed with this cognitive base, they are better prepared for the task of learning to read and write a phonetic written language.
*Research shows that Deaf children exposed to a first language by 6 months of age can and do develop written language skills as early and as well as their hearing peers. The secret is lots and lots of language exposure. Early Intervention programs are essential, but a school program alone can never provide enough language exposure to non-hearing children. The child must have meaningful language exposure his whole day, every day to develop as rapidly as his hearing peers. What is the important key? FAMILY INVOLVEMENT. So let’s get involved!
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