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VL2 3/1/12 Snoddon American Sign Language and Early Intervention

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This presentation reports findings from two research studies of Deaf and hearing parents and young children participating in family American Sign Language (ASL) and literacy programs in Ontario. The presentation also discusses the context for participation in family ASL and literacy programs, in an environment where restrictions have been placed on young Deaf and hard of hearing children's learning of ASL. The Ontario Infant Hearing Program has frequently not provided ASL services to children who receive cochlear implants or auditory-verbal therapy. This operational language policy of Ontario government-funded infant hearing screening and early intervention services has been maintained despite evidence for the benefits that learning ASL confers on spoken and written language development in Deaf children (Snoddon, 2008).

Through semi-structured interviews and observations of six parent-child dyads, the first, ethnographic action research study documents participants' encounters with professionals who regulate Deaf children and their families' access to ASL. At the same time, the setting of the ASL Parent-Child Mother Goose Program is presented as a Deaf cultural space and thereby a counter-discourse to clinical discourses regarding Deaf identity and bilingualism. This space features the Deaf mother participants' ASL literacy practices and improvisations of ASL rhymes and stories. The practices of the ASL Parent-Child Mother Goose Program leader also serve to define and support emergent ASL literacy.

The second, mixed-methods study evaluates the content and effects of a series of workshops for teaching hearing parents how to read books with their young Deaf children using ASL. These workshops feature bilingual Deaf adult instructors reading a broad range of children's picture books and providing instruction that supports parents with ASL storytelling and book sharing strategies, and translating English texts to ASL. This study evaluates the perceived impact of book sharing workshops on parent and children's literacy interactions, language learning, and community involvement. Collectively, the findings from these studies highlight the benefits of emergent ASL and literacy in Deaf children and their families, and provide an evidence-based rationale for governments and government agencies to better support this development through partnerships with the Deaf ASL community.

Snoddon, K. (2008). American Sign Language and early intervention. Canadian Modern Language Review, 64(4), 581-604.

Kristin Snoddon is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow with the School of Early Childhood Education, Ryerson University, where she teaches courses in inclusive curriculum design and working with linguistically and culturally diverse children. She received her Ph.D. in Second Language Education from the University of Toronto. Dr. Snoddon has worked for provincial, national, and international organizations of Deaf people, including a one-year internship in the World Federation of the Deaf General Secretariat, Stockholm, Sweden, and a four-year position as ASL and Literacy Training Coordinator for the Ontario Cultural Society of the Deaf. Her book American Sign Language and Early Literacy will be published by Gallaudet University Press. Her other publications have appeared in the Canadian Modern Language Review, Current Issues in Language Planning, Sign Language Studies, and Writing & Pedagogy. March 1, 2012

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