Why Do Parents of Deaf Children not Want to Use ASL?

Isabella Sparks, Staff Writer

Imagine you’re born deaf, never hearing anything, not understanding language as a concept at all, having no way to communicate.

Why would you not learn ASL or be discouraged to learn ASL? The sad reality is that some parents of deaf children don’t understand that there is a whole deaf community out there. Rather they tend to want their child to conform to the hearing world’s rules, learn to read lips, learn to talk while signing, anything they can do to make them being deaf easier for the hearing community. Why don’t we start learning to help them rather than push them to the side?

American Sign Language (ASL) is the main language for most people in the deaf community; it’s also often their only language. Parents who choose to get a deaf child a cochlear implant may be setting them up for less communication in the future. They may never know how to sign within their own community. It also may affect them when they’re an adult if they decide the implant isn’t for them.

“Deaf children who learn to sign early may boost their brainpower in ways unrelated to language,” stated an article at Science News. In the article, the researchers explained how they tested a group of deaf people who have been signing their whole life, and they tested another group who haven’t been signing their whole life. The article states, “Early exposure to signing helps deaf kids on mental tasks… The late signers required more redirection to follow signed conversations…We now have a preponderance of evidence to suggest that if they have not acquired language early, there can be lifelong impacts…That means that families of deaf children who receive cochlear implants shouldn’t necessarily abandon attempts to sign.” If families of deaf children don’t encourage learning ASL, those deaf children may be at a huge disadvantage. Without ASL, they may lose their way to comfortably communicate.

Another article from Science News for Students reported that “Early intro to sign language has lasting benefits… New study recommends introduction(of sign language) should begin in infancy.” Doctor Peter Houser, a brain researcher who is also deaf, states, “Most hearing parents do not sign with their newborn deaf children.” That means that these children have very limited exposure to sign language. He reports, “This can slow how quickly these kids acquire language.” More surprising, Hauser’s research suggests, “late exposure to sign language also appears to affect other types of mental tasks.”

Sign language is the most prominent way to communicate for those in the deaf community, and not starting to sign early on could have lifelong effects. The hearing community needs to be more helpful towards the deaf community and maybe try communicating with ASL, rather than have the deaf community conform to the hearing one.