Speaker Mathilde de Geus
Parents play an essential role in the lives of Deaf children this role requires them to be Long Life Learners. Knowledge gained through continuous input from professionals and researchers allows for a better family environment. As a professional I have met many parents who have questions about sign language development in deaf children. It is essential that these questions are answered. This conference can provide the awareness that parents need support with these issues. Let me introduce the two awesome mothers of the film and let’s listen what keeps them motivated;
Speaker Jacqueline van den Heiligenberg
November last year we published a video letter online emphasising the need for bilingual education. The reason we did this was that we feel there is a big gap between what is said over hearing parents of deaf children and what is happening in practice. It is often said hearing parents aren’t able to sign or they don’t feel the need to do so. We think this is not the case. Parents don’t always get the full story from professionals regarding how to raise a deaf child and the important role sign language can play. It is not clear why parents aren’t getting the full picture, but in our opinion raising a deaf child requires the use of sign language and spoken language on an equal basis. We believe this for the following reasons:
- Every child is entitled to his own natural language in which he can express himself freely whether it’s spoken or signed;
- We encourage the use of new technologies but we must always choose reliability over chance. Sign language has a proven track record;
- One must not squander the natural windows of opportunity in a child’s development by focussing on one method;
- Good language development always leads to better cognitive skills.
A probable reason why parents aren’t getting the full picture is that in this day and age professionals are focusing on a specific field of expertise thereby narrowing the scope of advice. We would like to call on all professionals to look at the broader picture when it comes to language development in deaf children. Implementing a dual strategy, involving sign languages professionals and vice versa, is a win win situation for all parties concerned ... and especially for the child.
Finally I would like to share something my daughter said to me which I feel illustrates the importance of having your own natural language:
“Mom when you speak to me I can hear words
but when you sign you tell me a story!”
Speaker Helga Duifhuis
As parents we are asked what we would like to have researched regarding sign language.We have 5 questions which we feel need to be investigated; central to each question is the position of the deaf child.
- Does bilingual language development lead to better language skills and what is the difference to only learning a spoken language?
- How does language competence differ between NGT (Dutch Sign Language) and NMG (Dutch with Signing – ie. SimCom)
- What effect does signing by hearing parents have on deaf children?
- How well can a deaf child understand what the interpreter is signing even if they haven’t learnt or don’t get sign language lessons?
- What is the effect of sign language on hearing brothers & sisters, neighbourhood kids and children at school? How does this affect the deaf child itself?
As parents it’s exciting to stand here before you but more importantly that we are asked to share our ideas with you. We hope that not only for now, but also for the future, that we as parents are not spoken “about” but spoken “with”...and that we can look forward to a real teamwork.