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Sign language development in deaf children with additional needs

Herman, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-5732-9999, Shield, A. & Morgan, G. ORCID: 0000-0002-9495-1274 (2019). Sign language development in deaf children with additional needs. In: Manual Sign Acquisition in Children with Developmental Disabilities. (pp. 133-151). New York: Nova Sciences Publishers.


This chapter focuses on atypical patterns of sign language development in deaf children. The issue is complicated by the need to differentiate between delays that are due to limited exposure to language, and delays due to health, educational or social difficulties. Sign language acquisition is often delayed in deaf children due to a variety of factors. Between 90-95% of deaf children are from hearing families (Mitchell and Karchmer, 2004). Although many such children eventually become proficient users of a sign language, they frequently experience delayed and impoverished sign language exposure at the crucial early stages of language development and throughout their school years, since hearing parents and professionals are often unable to provide fluent sign language, models (Lu, Jones & Morgan, 2016). Children raised in these environments can acquire some signing skills, and in extreme cases where no signs are used by parents, may even develop systematic, rule-governed gestural systems (Goldin Meadow, Mylander & Franklin, 2007). However, full mastery of the grammar, vocabulary and pragmatics of sign language is a challenge. By contrast, children raised in environments where sign is the first language (i.e., where one or both parents are deaf) typically follow the expected trajectory of development, unless they have an additional learning need.

Publication Type: Book Section
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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