21st ANNUAL EARLY HEARING DETECTION & INTERVENTION CONFERENCE

March 13 - 15, 2022 • Cincinnati, OH

<< BACK TO AWARDS

 Stuck at beginner level: Hearing parents' challenges in learning ASL word order

Hearing parents who choose to sign with their DHH child offer an accessible language and inclusive home environment. Unfortunately, frustrating obstacles often block parents from achieving ASL proficiency. In particular, parental ASL instruction focuses disproportionately on vocabulary, neglecting the word order rules necessary for combining vocabulary into grammatical ASL sentences. This pattern emerged in our survey of 23 hearing parents of DHH children between 0;07 and 9;11 years (median 4;0 years) who shared their experiences as new sign language learners. Asked what aspect(s) of sign language posed the most difficulty for them, parents overwhelmingly characterized sign language "Word order" as Quite Difficult (20/23) or Near Impossible (1/20) to learn, followed closely by "Classifiers" (18/23 Quite Difficult). Word order is notably more variable in ASL than in English, often a result of complex interactions with classifier constructions. In follow-up interviews, parents described word order as a "big stumbling block" and "huge challenge," revealing three recurring themes: 1. Parents feel their lack of ASL word order knowledge keenly and are uneasy about using English word order with ASL signs. 2. Attempts to solicit word order instruction or correction are frustratingly unsuccessful. 3. Deaf adults often refrain from correcting parents' ASL word order to avoid discouraging them and/or modify their own ASL to more English-like word order to accommodate beginner-signer parents. As one mother lamented after 1.5 years of ASL instruction, "I have hit this wall, like all the vocabulary has been very helpful but now...I [need] to get really serious in practicing the word order [but I’m not] finding a place to do that or to get that." Addressing this critical gap in parents' ASL learning requires partnerships between sign linguists and early interventionists to translate the latest word order research into family-centered pedagogy to support hearing parents' ASL development beyond beginner level.

  • Recognize the aspects of learning ASL that hearing parents report as most difficult to learn.
  • Identify reasons why word order might be particularly difficult for hearing parents.
  • Demonstrate how collaboration between sign language linguists and early interventionists can lead to family-ASL curricula that incorporate more updated and robust information on ASL syntax.

Poster:
23278_13587DeborahChen Pichler.pdf


Presenter: Deborah Chen Pichler

Deborah Chen Pichler is Professor of Linguistics at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. Her research focuses on the acquisition of ASL by Deaf children, bimodal bilingual acquisition of ASL and English by Coda children and Deaf children with cochlear implants from Deaf families. She also studies L2 acquisition of ASL by hearing and Deaf adults, particularly hearing parents of deaf and hard of hearing children.


ASHA DISCLOSURE:

Financial -
No relevant financial relationship exist.

Nonfinancial -
No relevant nonfinancial relationship exist.

Presenter: Diane Lillo-Martin

Diane Lillo-Martin is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the University of Connecticut, and a Senior Scientist at Haskins Laboratories. Her main research interest is to better understand the human language faculty. Primarily she examines this by studying the structure and acquisition of American Sign Language, and by looking at the process of language acquisition across different languages. See her site for the Sign Linguistics and Language Acquisition lab (http://slla.lab.uconn.edu/) and the Binational Bimodal Bilingual Language Development Project (http://bibibi.uconn.edu/) for more information.


ASHA DISCLOSURE:

Financial -

Nonfinancial -

Presenter: Elaine Gale

As a deaf individual with deaf parents, Elaine Gale experienced the importance of growing up with deaf role models. As a former sign language mentor for the Colorado Home Intervention Program (CHIP), she learned first-hand the effectiveness of providing families who have children identified as deaf or hard of hearing with support to help children develop to their full potential. Her doctoral studies in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder focused on exploring initiation, joint attention, and language in mother-child interactions with toddlers who are deaf. Since 2002, Gale has been coordinating the Hunter College Deaf and Hard of Hearing teacher preparatory program. Her current research includes deaf and hard of hearing individuals in leadership roles working with families and their young children who are deaf and hard of hearing.


ASHA DISCLOSURE:

Financial -
No relevant financial relationship exist.

Nonfinancial -
No relevant nonfinancial relationship exist.