SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 95

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. In addition, because oral programs usually forbid signing, the social environment for students is also inadequate. Although children in oral schools typically create their own systems of signs with which they communicate in private, these systems are often quite restricted and usually differ markedly from more-standard ASL. Students cannot communicate easily among themselves or with the adults in classrooms or other official environments. Neither can they "overhear" conversations among others in the way that hearing children do. In these ways, the system also limits children's access to general cultural knowledge, socio-emotional experiences, and other interactions that might affect cognitive development. Thus, for many profoundly deaf children, complete reliance on audition and lipreading is unreasonable and counter-intuitive. Total Communication was well-established as a "philosophy" of deaf education by the early 1970's and, in its most common incarnation as simultaneous communication, has since become the predominant methodology in the United States. Because it calls for teachers to use signing in the classroom, it has come to stand as a symbol of opposition to oralism and as such has enjoyed substantial support from the adult deaf population. While it is true that Total Communication programs re-introduced signing to the classroom, it has not made curricular material accessible to either of the categories of deaf children described above. The required "mode" of communication in virtually all Total Communication programs is spoken English supported by simultaneous signs. We refer to such signing as sign-supported speech (SSS), in order to focus on the assumption that the speech is seen as the primary signal in the conglomerate of signing and speaking (Johnson & Erting, in press). A large proportion of the signs used in SSS are special signs developed for use with spoken English. The goal of such signing is to present simultaneous signed and spoken utterances, both of which are held to be complete representations of English. According to this model, it is these representations of English that serve both as the input for natural language acquisition and as the vehicle for the transmission of curricular material. The use of signs to support spoken English is often referred to as "sign language," but it is not. Sign languages are natural languages with grammars independent of spoken languages. This has been demonstrated by scores of researchers beginning with Stokoe (1960). This research has shown that sign languages like ASL are natural languages because (1) they develop naturally over time among a community of users, (2) they are acquired through an ordinary course of language acquisition by children exposed to them, and (3) they are grammatically organized according to principles found in all other human languages but exhibit independent patterns of organization that make each sign language unique. In contrast, artificially developed systems for SSS have none of these three characteristics. They have been developed in large part, not through regular use by a community, but by committee; they tend to be taught rather than acquired; and what grammatical organization they have derives purely from another language. Thus, although a people using SSS are moving their hands, they are not using a sign language. For these reasons, the signed portion of SSS utterances does not have the grammatical, morphological, phonological or lexical structure of American Sign Language. In fact, because ASL is so different in structure from English, it would be impossible to speak full English sentences and sign complete ASL sentences simultaneously. Rather, an SSS utterance is a series of ASL signs and invented signs in English word order that is intended only to represent English speech. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 95