With cochlear implants, deaf children can be fluent in one or more spoken languages (whether sign is used). This is a new form of spoken bilingualism! A few deaf children grow up to be spoken/manual bilingual – communicating in English and in Irish sign language.
How Many People In Ireland Use Sign Language?
Ireland has about 800,000 people with hearing loss. This includes 1,077 Deaf native ISL users – and generic senior populations. About 3,300 deaf/hard-of-hearing children are in education. Ninety per cent attend mainstream schools, with 10% at specialist schools.
Choosing Your Family Communication Option
When deciding how to communicate with a child, you should think:
• What are your child’s communication needs?
• For good language modeling, are you (and the family) committed to learning sign IF you choose this option? Just 25% of parents achieve near-fluency in sign-language.
* Have you thought of modeling your own spoken language, if the child gets a cochlear implant? Then you can leap in, and model from the start as you would with a hearing child.
• Your child will have opportunities for direct communication with family or friends so you must ensure that everyone knows which method (and which spoken language!) to use.
• In an educational setting, the child should be supported to communicate in whatever method they choose, even if this varies at different times.
Reading Print Letters Is Essential
• Early-years educators should introduce infants to print as soon as possible to develop their literacy skills. This will help deaf infants reach the same literacy levels as their hearing friends and read captions. If a school does not have many deaf students, collaboration with nearby schools can be considered to share information and resources.
• Home and school environments should be accessible with no physical barriers. Visual learning aids and alarms should be used by default. If videos are used for learning then captioning will provide an inclusive education environment to benefit other students too.
(compiled by Miriam Walsh)