The single greatest risk faced by Deaf people is inadequate exposure to a usable first language. Dr. Gulati reviews 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 empathetic abilities among children who are language-deprived.
Dr. Braun is currently reconstructing the genealogy of the connexin 26 gene, which causes much of the congenital deafness in the American deaf community. The overall goal of this project is to answer some fundamental questions about why and how the large number of current connexin 26 mutations first appeared, and what these mutations and their histories can tell us about human evolution. There is some fascinating evidence that connexin 26 mutations might make deaf individuals resistant to diarrheal diseases such as dysentery and cholera, a major cause of death over the past 2,000 years.
Derek Braun is a professor and geneticist at Gallaudet University’s Department of Science, Technology and Mathematics. Gallaudet is the world’s only liberal arts university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. He oversees the Molecular Genetics Laboratory, where deaf undergraduate students perform research alongside deaf faculty. Research interests include mutations in the connexin 26 gene, which are responsible for up to half of congenital deafness in many world populations.
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences.
”Only a minority of profoundly deaf children read at age-level. We contend this reflects cognitive and linguistic impediments from lack of exposure to a natural language in early childhood, as well as the inherent difficulty of learning English only through the written modality. Yet some deaf children do acquire English via print. The current paper describes a theoretical model of how children could, in principle, acquire a language via reading and writing. The model describes stages of learning which represent successive, conceptual insights necessary for second/foreign language learning via print. Our model highlights the logical difficulties present when one cannot practice a language outside of reading/ writing, such as the necessity of translating to a first language, the need for explicit instruction, and difficulty that many deaf children experience in understanding figurative language. Our model explains why learning to read is often a protracted process for deaf children and why many fail to make progress after some initial success. Because language acquisition is thought to require social interaction, with meaning cued by extralinguistic context, the ability of some deaf individuals to acquire language through print represents an overlooked human achievement worthy of greater attention by cognitive scientists.”
You can read more in this journal article by Robert J. Hoffmeister and. Catherine L. Caldwell-Harris.
”Early acquisition of a natural language, signed or spoken, has been shown to fundamentally impact both one’s ability to use the first language, and the ability to learn subsequent languages later in life (Mayberry 2007, 2009). This review summarizes a number of recent neuroimaging studies in order to detail the neural bases of sign language acquisition. The logic of this review is to present research reports that contribute to the bigger picture showing that people who acquire a natural language, spoken or signed, in the normal way possess specialized linguistic abilities and brain functions that are missing or deficient in people whose exposure to natural language is delayed or absent. Comparing the function of each brain region with regards to the processing of spoken and sign languages, we attempt to clarify the role each region plays in language processing in general, and to outline the challenges and remaining questions in understanding language processing in the brain.”
You can read more in this journal article written by Evie Malaia and Ronnie B. Wilbur.
MYTH: Early exposure to two languages causes language delay and language confusion.
MYTH: to be a good reader, students with multiple language exposure must practice harder at only their English skills.
Get important scientific data behind busting these and other common myths about how deaf children acquire language in this informative fact sheet!
The infant brain may be predisposed to identify perceptually salient cues that are common to both signed and spoken languages. Recent theory based on spoken languages has advanced sonority as one of these potential language acquisition cues. Using a preferential looking paradigm with an infrared eye tracker, we explored visual attention of hearing 6- and 12-montholds with no sign language experience as they watched fingerspelling stimuli that either conformed to high sonority (well-formed) or low sonority (ill-formed) values, which are relevant to syllabic structure in signed language. Younger babies showed highly significant looking preferences for well-formed, high sonority fingerspelling, while older babies showed no preference for either fingerspelling variant, despite showing a strong preference in a control condition. The present findings suggest babies possess a sensitivity to specific sonority-based contrastive cues at the core of human language structure that is subject to perceptual narrowing, irrespective of language modality (visual or auditory), shedding new light on universals of early language learning. Read more about this topic in Adam Stone, Laura-Ann Petitto, and Rain Bosworth’s research paper.
Learn more about the impact of Language Deprivation Syndrome from Northeastern University’s Centre for Atypical Language Interpreting (CALI). This web resource will cover the basics and complexities of Language Deprivation Syndrome, it’s impact on Deaf children, and its possible link to neurodevelopment disorders.
This research is available in both a written format and ASL.
“When a child is identified as being deaf, a cochlear implant may be recommended early in the intervention process. For hearing families, this recommendation often comes with relief that there is a “medical fix” to providing their child with the ability to hear. While a cochlear implant provides significant benefit to many children, spoken language outcomes are extremely varied. This means that there should be a standard procedure, involving both medical and educational professionals, to provide families with the full spectrum of “what-ifs” and “what’s involved,” from surgery, to activation and monitoring of the device, to listening and spoken language training, to linguistic, educational, and social-emotional considerations. It is essential that families are provided with the full range of possible outcomes, opportunities, and needed services so they can make informed decisions about choosing a cochlear implant within the context of their “whole deaf child.”
The Cochlear Implant Education Center (CIEC) is a unit of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University. It is an educational resource center created in 2000 to share information about cochlear implant technology and its role in the education and lives of children who are deaf from birth through high school-aged. The CIEC has a unique focus in exploring and sharing considerations and practices related to the development and use of both spoken language and signed language for children using cochlear implant technology.
The CIEC has several resources, publications, and presentations on topics related to language, communication, and educational practices for children with cochlear implants which are available to professionals and families throughout the nation. The CIEC also provides supports to students with cochlear implants enrolled in the demonstration schools of the Clerc Center. The CIEC does not provide cochlear implant surgical services or mapping services for cochlear implant technology.