How to Develop Language

Did you see that Channel 4 item doing the rounds on facebook (and that apparently ended up on Russell Howard’s Good News last week) of the deaf guy in Uganda with no language until someone set up a signing course in his village?


It really upset me – because I can name 11-12 year olds from Cornwall, Devon, South Wales, Dorset, and Surrey for whom the exact same situation applies and we don’t get the luxury of blaming it on a Third World country.

It exists here because of ignorant hearing people with power making ignorant decisions that result in tangible harm. So… the argument is this:
  • People, babies, hearing, deaf, learning disabled or not, require LANGUAGE to mediate their thoughts and understand and articulate their needs. 
  • To develop a language you require considerable access to a rich language environment. 
  • An accessible rich language environment is not a Teaching Assistant with Level 2 BSL. It is not a parent learning Cued Speech. It is not Sign Supported English if your audiometry compromises your speech perception. It is not Makaton. 
  • A rich language environment for a deaf person is one in which they may immerse in a fully visual evolved and true language. In the UK that is BSL. 
  • People in early developmental stages of language require a language environment comprising HIGH QUALITY language. Not language at a similar level to that at which they currently sit. A Level 1 signing kid requires a Level 6 BSL environment not a Level 1 one. A deaf person with learning disabilities requires a Level 6 BSL environment not Makaton. 
  • OK sometimes resources preclude this, but this is the target acceptable context. Care Plans and Statements of Educational Need must state this as the aim and explain why it was not met, rather than aim low so the aim can be met regardless of the developmental harm to the individual. 
 That is it. And I challenge anyone to successfully argue otherwise.
Jim CromwellComment