Sounding Board


Is it wrong to sign?

Enquiry: My 18 month old daughter has bilateral cochlear implants. We used sign language with her up until she had the implants three months ago now and I am reluctant to let it drop. Professionals seem to have mixed views about whether the use of sign will hold back her language development. Do you have more information about this?
Reply: As teachers of the deaf have no doubt been advising you, the most important thing now is to make sure that you communicate with your daughter as much as possible using clear and natural speech relating to things that she can see and understand as this will ensure that she is able to make optimal use of her cochlear implants.
If you have signed with her since she was very young, it would be unnatural to suddenly drop it. Research done by the Ear Foundation when parents were interviewed parents about the ‘communication journey’ of their child suggests that parents instinctively know whether it is necessary to sign with young person and usually the use of sign drops away as the child develops more oral language.
You will probably find as your daughter develops more spoken language you will adapt your communication accordingly. The only thing to be wary of is that sometimes using sign while you are talking can limit the oral language that you use and mean that the language you are using is not always completely natural.
You are right that there are lots of different opinions about this. Try not to worry about it. Respond to your child in a sensitive and relevant way using natural spoken language but don't feel that you cannot sign to your child at all, especially in these early days. Nowadays many deaf teenagers are showing a renewed interest in sign language and may look to learn it again at that age.

Posted on November 15, 2011 17:47


I don't know if this will help, but do continue with using sign language, as I find sign language an amazing way to communicate with children and adults, I still use sign in front of my deaf friends and still sign to my parents but my parents have dropped the sign language as my speech is excellent but I love using sign language as it is a beautiful way and hearing people don't know what I am signing if I am signing to my deaf friends down the high street!!!!

Posted by Lucy Lovelock on April 5, 2013 15:28

You must be logged in to post your comments. Login »

The Ear Foundation Limited. Registered office: Marjorie Sherman House, 83 Sherwin Road, Lenton, Nottingham, NG7 2FB.

A company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales number 3482779, registered charity number 1068077