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Home > Clerc Center > National Summit Brings Together Experts on ASL and English Bilingual Early Childhood Education

National Summit Brings Together Experts on ASL and English Bilingual Early Childhood Education

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Gallaudet University hosted the National American Sign Language and English Bilingual Early Childhood Education Summit from April 23-24. This event, centering on American Sign Language (ASL) and English acquisition and development in the deaf child's early years, was planned by the Center for ASL/English Bilingual Education and Research (CAEBER). The goal of the summit was to address priorities that will lead to systemic change in early childhood ASL/English bilingual education. It also provided networking and training opportunities for those working in the field. Research-based information, solutions, and resources were offered for issues that early childhood educators, service providers, speech-language professionals, audiologists, and medical personnel face.

The latest research on the benefits of a child's early exposure to bilingual language was shared. Laura-Ann Petitto, a cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Toronto-Scarborough, presented her work on the impact of bilingual language exposure in young children and its relationship to cognitive development. Early childhood education (ECE) programs for deaf and hard of hearing children will benefit from reviewing these findings and considering them in their programming.

Dr. Laurene Sims, event co-chair, and Susanne Scott of the Clerc Center's Cochlear Implant Education Center were among the 15 teachers and staff members from the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center who attended the Summit. Scott marveled at the success of the event. "It was one of the best conferences I have ever attended," she said. "The concept of ASL/English Bilingualism in ECE programs began as a grassroots effort, in a small focus group. With the help of world renowned researchers like Dr. Petitto, this small group effort has become a major force in changing how we view ASL/English bilingualism in ECE programs for deaf and hard of hearing children." 

Attendees were treated to a dramatic performance of I Wonder Why by Deaf actress Terrylene on Friday evening. The event was a fundraiser for the organization.

View the Summit program for more details.