General Information about Deaf Students, Literacy, & Marion County Schools
In Marion County we pride ourselves on giving each child what they need to thrive. For many of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, American Sign Language is their first language. It has become more and more apparent through educational programs and research that being proficient in American Sign Language leads to mastery in reading and writing in English. Being proficient in two languages is called bilingualism. Research has proven that early exposure to bilingualism provides indispensable advantages in cognition, language, and literacy. The cognitive and language benefits that come from being bilingual continue throughout each child's lifetime.
The Deaf and Hard of Hearing program understands that proficiency in American Sign Language has been strongly correlated with proficiency in English literacy and spoken language development. Opportunities that provide engagement with visual language and printed literacy place deaf children on a path towards fluent bilingualism. Knowing this information, we conduct all of our instructional lessons in a visual language while simultaneously showing the lessons in a written form to encourage language proficiency in both American Sign Language and he written English. We also strongly encourage our teachers and interpreters to fingerspell words often in their lessons as it aids in vocabulary acquisition. We believe in "the chaining technique" of showing the child the sign, fingerspelling the word, and then signing the word once again. Another strategy implemented into our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students' daily educational regimen is visual aids in order to improve language, cognition, and literacy skills and help with developing an expansive vocabulary. Access to pictures help with the comprehension, retention and use of new information, new signs, or new concepts. Providing a more concrete approach in teaching language assists with vocabulary development, word/concept recall, and the ability to use a larger schema. We understand the importance of exposing children to fluent language models for grammar acquisition, therefore we have guests that are fluent signers read stories to our younger students and fluent signers work on Deaf relevant topics with our older students.
By being exposed to examples of extended use of visual language, our Deaf students experience ample opportunities to develop cognitive flexibility and metalinguistic abilities because they are exposed to the examples above mentioned. Cognitive abilities and metalinguistic abilities help to facilitate the development of English literacy skills. Early visual language experience offers great advantages for a deaf child’s linguistic, communicative, cognitive, academic, literacy, and psychosocial development.
We strongly encourage the families of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students to learn as much sign language as possible in order to give their child a strong language base. Please watch the "Signed Stories" we have available to you along with your child; this will create a bonding opportunity with your child while simultaneously teaching you American Sign Language vocabulary. Providing your child with a language rich environment at home will help your child thrive in the educational setting, aids in creating a brighter future, and helps future employability skills.