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De-mystifying sign language acquisition and development in deaf children

Patrick Sibanda


Quite often people think that deaf children acquire language differently from their hearing peers. People often wonder whether deaf children go through the same or different language development milestones from their peers. Some people even wonder whether these children develop any language at all because for them sign language is not a formal language after all. It is also not surprising to find even deaf education scholars hesitant about whether deaf children develop sign language in a pre-determined style at all. This paper is intended to demystify these doubts. The paper explores the nature of sign language acquisition and development by comparing with typical oral language processes. Developmental milestones are provided to allay the tension scholars often go through when required to outline, let alone examine stages of language development in deaf children. The conclusion of this paper is that sign language acquisition and development in deaf children is the same as oral language acquisition and development in their hearing peers. This is because sign and not oral language is the native language for the deaf.


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