SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 109

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. Given that the learning of a spoken language is a visual experience, even by ostensibly auditory methods, and given the difficulties we have described for such speech-dependent methods, we propose to make the process overtly and purposely visual. Thus, the learning of English will be through written texts, not through speech. That this can be an appropriate and successful method for the introduction of a spoken language has been argued by Paul and Gramly (1986) and documented by Suzuki and Notoya (1984), who compared the acquisition of written and oral language in six deaf children from infancy to about the age of six. They report success at teaching reading before speaking and conclude that for deaf children (1984, p. 10): (1) Acquisition of written language is not dependent on oral language; (2) Written language teaching can be initiated at about one year of age; and (3) Written language is easier to learn than oral language. o Speech should not be employed as the primary vehicle for the learning of a spoken language for deaf children. Understanding and producing speech are skills to be developed not as a means of acquisition, but as a result of acquisition, after competence in the language has been established through literacy. This does not preclude the use of early auditory stimulation and vocal practice. Both are important parts of our proposal for early childhood education. Nor does it suggest that children should not receive auditory amplification at an appropriate time. It claims only that hearing should not be the primary channel through which a deaf child receives linguistic input and that a primary focus on hearing and speech should not be allowed to hinder normal age-level acquisition of language or knowledge. o The development of speech-related skills must be accomplished through a program that has available a variety of approaches, each designed for a specific combination of etiology and severity of hearing loss. Children who are post-lingually deafened, those who have substantial residual hearing, and those who are severely and pre-lingually deaf will each require different approaches to the development of speaking, hearing, and lipreading skills. Each child, however, will have access to ASL as a primary language as well as access to the curriculum through ASL. No child will be asked to learn to understand speech and to acquire knowledge through speech at the same time. o Deaf children are not seen as "defective models" of normally hearing children. The role of the model system proposed here is not to "fix" deaf children or to make them more closely resemble their hearing peers, either in language or behavior. The role of the system is to prepare them to participate fully and effectively in modern American life. This includes the development SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 109