Inauguration 2016 – New Scientific Understandings and Directions from VL2

Minimal language input in early life has been found to have devastating impact on young children’s capacity to learn language and to achieve healthy reading and literacy. Beyond minimal language experience, some infants can receive no accessible early life language experience. This is the case for many deaf and hard of hearing children around the world. For those deaf infants slated for cochlear implants, an unfortunate worldwide practice has evolved whereby signed language can be wholly withheld in early childhood. This practice has been fueled by misunderstandings, erroneous beliefs, and ubiquitous myths about the vital importance of natural language exposure in early life, the biological equivalence of signed and spoken languages in the human brain, and the human child’s developmental requirements to achieve optimal bilingualism and reading success. In this presentation, common myths are addressed and debunked through evaluation of powerful scientific evidence from Gallaudet and NSF Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2), VL2’s 4 Resource Hubs (Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging, BL2/Petitto; Early Education and Literacy Lab, EL2/Allen; Translation in the Science of Learning Lab, TL2/Herzig; Motion Light Lab, ML2/Malzkuhn & Quandt), and VL2 and Gallaudet University’s Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) program’s exciting three new neuroscience labs (Langdon; Quandt; Berteletti). The myths include “Early exposure to signed languages is not necessary. Speech should come first, then sign;” and, “Sound and sound phonology are absolutely critical for successful early reading.” Both are wrong and we will discuss why, with policy implications.

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