Language Development & Deprivation: Part 3 – Language Access
~ Interview with Petra and Kester Horn-Marsh
Emotional and Social Health of Language Access
Kester: If there’s a language delay then it’s shown that there’s also a reduction in social and emotional well-being so children are at a loss. There has been some psychological research done viewing both people who are hearing and deaf who currently see therapists or counselors. And it was discovered that out of 100 hearing people, 75% of them displayed an issue, something that they were born with. Several of them displayed an issue that was ontogeny based. With the deaf group only 25% of them were born with this. Seventy-five percent of them had social interaction issues. And so this is a perfect example of language deprivation, and it shows why emotional and social well-being are so extremely important. So with legislation, education, board of directors, they need to research and read and understand the importance of social and emotional health as well because it’s so very important when a child is being raised.
The Pros of Bilingualism and Testing
Petra: Often people do testing on English through reading. Parents really struggle to understand the importance of bilingualism. Somebody who is bilingual will develop differently than somebody who is monolingual. When only one language is developed and tested, it cannot be compared with the other one. Somebody who’s learning two different languages will often times have one language that is stronger and develops faster than the other one. And they can go back and forth throughout the development. It can depend on the use and experience of each individual. So you have to look at each language. Through testing you need to look at both of the languages. Have a test for ASL, and then also have a test for English. Oftentimes people only test the English, and it looks like the student has a language delay like they’re weak in that language, like the bilingualism is not helping them. But that’s when you need to also do a test on the ASL because then you can see a reverse. Potentially the ASL is developing much faster than the English. So look at both of the languages so you can see the rate of speed at which the languages are being learned.
How do you test ASL proficiency?
Petra: Years ago when we started our work on language research, it was a long time ago, I think 2003. We started doing our analysis and research about VL2. Are you familiar with VL2? It stands for Visual Language Learner: VL2. Gallaudet received a huge grant to do an excessive amount of research and gathered information about VL2.
Kester: It shows that a child’s brain can learn more through the multiple languages that they learn. If they learn both speech and sign language, then their brain can absorb more information. And they are equal languages. So it’s really fascinating to see a child who learns speech and lip-reading and also learns sign language and how their brain absorbs both. So when you’re providing ASL and English instead of just saying no to one language or the other, ASL or English, it’s important and hugely beneficial to teach the child both English and ASL.
Kansas School for the Deaf
Petra: Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD), the school that we work at here, is bilingual. And we provide three skills: ASL, English reading and writing, which those two are not optional. They’re required for all students. And the third one is speech and listening which can depend on each individual student and their skill level, the same as in sports. In basketball it can depend on how prepared the child is for it. So what we will do is provide all the information to students, and once they max out at a certain level we’ll stop providing them with that and just foster what they can do. But with other children they’re ready to take even more. And so we’ll provide them that third option. But the first two are not optional.