A First Language: Whose Choice Is It?

Shawn Mahshie

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Summary:

This paper reviews some of the issues that affect decisions about providing language input for a child with deafness or hard of hearing. The focus of the discussion is on describing what has been learned from environments where parent-infant support and early educational placements are characterized by efforts to expose children with deafness-of both hearing parents and parents with deafness-to whole languages that the children find accessible for face-to-face interaction. It also addresses the research-based foundations for this practice, particularly research findings from Sweden and Denmark where efforts focused in this direction have resulted in graduates whose achievement and literacy levels are on par with their hearing peers. The benefit of exposing young children with hearing impairments to both sign language and spoken language is emphasized, along with the need to allow the child to choose his or her own form of communication. (Contains 66 references.) 

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Bibliographic Information:

Shawn Mahshie. A First Language: Whose Choice Is It? (1997). Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center: Washington, DC. (30 pages).

Sponsoring Agency: Gallaudet University

Language: English

Reading Level: Average

Formats Available: Printed Material

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Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
800 Florida Avenue, NE
KDES Room 3400
Gallaudet University
Washington, DC
20002

URL: http://www.gallaudet.edu/clerc_center.html

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Producer Information:

Intended User Audience:

This material is of interest to parents and teachers of deaf children, researchers, school administrators, support service personnel, and policy makers. 

Product Development:

Shawn Neal Mahshie has conducted two studies to gather information about bilingual education of Deaf children in Denmark and Sweden, countries that began providing academic instruction in Sign Language in the early 1980s. She has also authored a book entitled "Educating Deaf Children Bilingually", which was published in 1995. She has been a teacher and has also worked at Gallaudet University's Linguistics Research Laboratory. 

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