Early Intervention Network: Supporting Linguistic Competence for Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Factor 3 - Early exposure to accessible language through sign is beneficial to language acquisition.

Based on evidence, the recommended practices for this factor are:

Develop a program philosophy reflective of evidence documenting the benefits of early visual language.

Share an early intervention program mission and philosophy that:

  • values use of a visual language early in a child's development rather than remedially after a child has demonstrated language delays, and 
  • reflects evidence documenting the benefits of early visual language development.

Provide family services and supports to facilitate visual language acquisition.

Provide services and supports to empower families with the skills and resources to enhance family-child interactions and facilitate visual language acquisition including:  

  • use of a variety of strategies, including home visits by teachers or specialists fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) or other sign systems identified via the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) process;
  • family guidance in how to provide a visually accessible environment inclusive of:
    1. strategies and insights learned from deaf families in facilitating visual language, such as directing and managing deaf children's visual attention using child-directed language, eye gaze, and pointing as well as using child-directed sign language to foster parent-child interaction, and
    2. strategies to guide families in enhancing their child's visual attention and modifying their interactive styles to match the visual needs of their deaf infants;
  • provision of ASL services by professionals who have native or fluent skills and are trained to teach families and young children (note: for families who choose Cued Speech or a manual code of English, professionals should be fluent models of those systems);
  • use of a variety of resources to teach ASL, including community ASL classes, family coaching or tutoring in ASL, opportunities for interaction with fluent ASL users, and use of other ASL training resources, such as DVDs and websites (see resources in the Visual Language section of the site resources); and 
  • mechanisms  for families to connect with individuals who can serve as fluent sign language models (for more information about deaf adults serving as fluent sign language models, see NCHAM Deaf/Hard of Hearing Adult Involvement Learning Community).