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Gallaudet Univeristy
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Critical Issue 2: ASL/English bilingual education programs (and other programs inclusive of sign language) are typically considered as an option for children with cochlear implants only after a child is unsuccessful in an oral or mainstream program.

The causes of this issue as an obstacle were believed to be related to:

  • Insufficient evidence showing that children with cochlear implants can successfully develop spoken language using sign inclusive language and communication approaches.
  • A lack of knowledge, lack of time, and lack of resources to develop and implement educational programs that develop, value, and utilize both spoken language and sign language.

Some of the identified challenges related to addressing this issue were:

  • The difficulty in convincing families of the importance of “language” regardless of modality.
  • Professional and family perspectives based on a stereotype that ASL/English bilingual programs don’t include spoken English (despite changes in many schools for the deaf to develop and implement programs inclusive of spoken English as well as ASL).
  • Professionals still in the process of figuring out how to address language planning and program design to address both ASL and spoken English within their programs. It is not yet clear what an effective program looks like.
  • Families not yet exposed to children who have gone through ASL/English bilingual programs demonstrating success in their spoken language development. (Note: There has not yet been time to research the outcomes of these students.)
  • Professional and familial concerns that sign will inhibit spoken language development.
  • Local referral systems that guide families to oral education professionals. These children may not become known to schools for the deaf until they demonstrate significant delay in all areas, and may not be able to catch up.
  • Doctors who may view schools for the deaf as too limiting and impart this to families.
  • The lack of counseling for parents regarding the varied (and not guaranteed) spoken language outcomes for children with cochlear implants and the positive role that sign may play.

Some of the strategies identified by conference participants to impact change in this area were:

  • The expansion of ASL/English bilingual programs to be more inclusive of spoken English for children with cochlear implants, and having those programs share their effective practices within various medical and educational circles.
  • Working with early intervention programs throughout the United States to redefine early intervention practices to reflect information and practices inclusive of both ASL and spoken English.
  • Reaching out to universities with programs in special education, deaf education, speech-language pathology, and audiology to promote inclusion of accurate and updated information regarding practices inclusive of spoken and signed language for children with cochlear implants.
  • Meeting with and educating administrators and leaders in school districts about options. One way to do this is by going to their meetings.
  • The development and dissemination of updated resource materials (videos, print, e-documents) to promote early inclusion of both spoken language and sign for children with cochlear implants.