Early Communication in Sign and Speech

Margaret Harris

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

 Early Communication in Sign and Speech

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  • Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology


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This chapter addresses two main issues. The first concerns the distinctive characteristics of successful communication strategies for young children with significant hearing losses, showing how these differ from successful communication strategies for young hearing children. Studies of parent–toddler communication are reviewed in order to identify features of good practice in the achievement of joint attention and the use of contingent language by the adult that serves to facilitate the young child’s transition into language. The second part of the chapter considers the early use of language by deaf children who are acquiring a sign language—drawing on data from American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL)—and those who are acquiring oral language. The rate of vocabulary development is considered, as well as the form and meaning of early signs and words. Evidence for the existence of specific language impairment in deaf children and its implications are also discussed. The chapter concludes by considering the impact of newborn hearing screening and early cochlear implantation on the development of early language and communication skills.

Keywords: deaf children; joint attention; vocabulary development parental signing; American Sign Language; British Sign Language

Article.  11331 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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