Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center

A First Language: Whose Choice Is It?

Author: Shawn Mahshie

This paper looks at some of the challenging issues that affect decisions about providing early, accessible language input for a deaf or hard of hearing child. Partially excerpted from Educating Deaf Children Bilingually (Mahshie, 1995), the paper describes a "win-win" situation in the use of both spoken and natural signed language for deaf and hard of hearing children. The author also shares examples and insights from highly successful bilingual education environments in Sweden and Denmark. These programs promote parent-infant support, early educational placements, and exposure of deaf children with hearing or deaf parents to natural, interactive language.

This is a Sharing Ideas paper. The “Sharing Ideas” series comprises working or occasional papers of interest to parents and professionals working with deaf and hard of hearing children. Works in the series are often prepared for a specific ‘occasion’ and include papers, presentations, or final reports that address a need in the field or contribute to the growing body of knowledge about educating deaf and hard of hearing children. The intent of the series is to act as a clearinghouse for sharing information from a number of sources.

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