Bilingualism In The Home & School Environments

Many deaf children grow up to be bilingual – communicating in both Irish Sign Language and in English. This can be a challenge for parents. How do they juggle using both, and which option should be used when?

Early use of ISL can support literacy skills in a child. When deciding the way you communicate with your child, you should consider:

• What are your child’s communication needs?

• Your child will have opportunities for direct communication with family or friends so you must ensure that everyone knows which method to use

• In an educational setting, the child must be supported to communicate in whatever method they choose, even if this varies at different times

Taking these points into account:

• Early-years educationalists should introduce children to print as soon as possible to develop their literacy skills. This will also help deaf children to reach the same literacy levels as their hearing friends. If a school does not have many deaf students, collaboration with neighboring schools could be considered to share information and resources.

• Arranging for a Deaf adult to read with a child who’s using ISL as their first language, will give the child a natural introduction to reading

• Interested families should have support to develop the appropriate ISL skills to communicate with their child

• Home and school environments should be accessible with no physical barriers. Visual learning aids and alarms should be used by default. If videos are used for learning then captioning and/or embedded signing options should be available to provide an inclusive education environment.

(compiled by Miriam Walsh)

Further Reading
Bilingualism – an overview
Communication Options

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