The History of Language and Communication Issues in Deaf Education

Donald F. Moores

in The Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education, Vol. 2

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780195390032
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 The History of Language and Communication Issues in Deaf Education

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  • Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • History and Systems in Psychology


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The oral/manual “methods” controversy arose more than 200 years ago. Although many variations exist, there have been three basic approaches. An “oral” approach concentrates on the development of the spoken language of a community. What is now known as a bilingual-bicultural (Bi-Bi) approach emphasizes the development of the natural sign language of a community as the first language, then teaches the majority language through reading. A third approach supports the development of a sign system based on the syntax of a spoken language and modifications of a sign language in instruction. This system can be used either alone or in coordination with speech, known as simultaneous communication (Sim Com), or alone. A fourth approach, known as total communication (TC), encourages the use of all forms of communication, dependent on individual needs. These longstanding debates have not been resolved after two centuries, and represent different perceptions of deafness, the requirements for leading a full, rich life, and resultant educational and social goals.

The oral method was dominant from 1880 to 1960. Since then, constant change has occurred, with sign languages and sign systems receiving significant support. Recent global developments in neonatal screening, early intervention programs, cochlear implants, and the growth of an “inclusion” model in education have major implications for instruction and for the development of language and communication skills in deaf individuals.

Keywords: oral; Bilingual-Bicultural; simultaneous communication; total communication; natural sign language; sign system

Article.  10892 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology

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