Signing and Down's Syndrome

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by tortega, Jan 26, 2011.

  1. tortega

    tortega Rookie

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    Jan 26, 2011

    My best friend has a 2 1/2 year old daughter with Down's Syndrome. She has signed to her sense she was 6 months old. Her daughter is very bright and now knows about 60 signs and has a much smaller but growing oral vocabulary.

    My friend just had a disturbing conversation with another mother and I was hoping to hear some different opinions.

    This mother has an adult daughter with Down's Syndrome and the daughter speaks very well and very clearly. My friend commented on this and shared that she hoped her daughter could speak so clearly some day.

    The mother who has her doctorate in speech told my friend that the worst thing she could do is to continue to allow her daughter to sign. She said that signing is trendy right now but it allows children to be lazy and she needs to force her daughter to use her oral language if she ever wants her to be able to speak clearly.

    I haven't been trained in special education but from a general education background this is not consistent with what I know about language development. Do any of you have any background with signing and Down's Syndrome?
     
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  3. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Jan 26, 2011

    Well signing is a different language from english, which could pose an issue.

    It would be good to get the child to speak more though and use signing only when necessary.
     
  4. bethechange

    bethechange Comrade

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    Jan 26, 2011

    I completely disagree. I think that the most important thing is that the child have a functional system of communication. Having a way to let people know what you want, think, or need dramatically decreases frustration and the accompanying negative behaviors, and improves a person's quality of life. There is no reason to cut off the main way she has to communicate right now, which sounds like it is sign language.

    That being said, probably only the people the child is familiar with anda handful of others know sign language. Therefore, speech and oral language can and should be encouraged in conjunction with sign.

    I had a student with Down's last year and he joins my class for a few activities this year. His home language is Sudanese and he uses about 5 words of functional English. He uses a GoTalk 20, and we still encourage oral language, but in a playful, no-stress way. I would never dream of taking his GoTalk away and trying to force him to use speech only.
     
  5. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Jan 26, 2011

    There is actually research that proves that AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) does NOT hinder speech development, and in many cases actually INCREASES speech development. A child is less likely to learn to talk when he/she is frustrated and can't express his/her needs.... you end up with a frustrated child with no way to communicate.

    If she ends up developing speech - fabulous. If not, she has a back up system in which has been successful for her in the past. Why mess with it?

    See below:


    A common concern voiced by parents and educators of individuals with disabilities is that use of AAC will interfere with or suppress the development of natural speech (Beukelman, 1987). The question thus arises: Should the AAC team focus on increasing an individual's repertoire of natural speech instead of devoting therapy time to AAC?

    Over the past few years, it has become clear that this is a false dilemma—AAC use and natural speech development are not mutually exclusive. This is supported by quality evidence. Millar, Light, and Schlosser (2006) published a review of studies regarding the effects of AAC intervention on speech production in children with developmental disabilities and found no evidence that AAC hindered speech production. More recently, both Schlosser and Wendt (2008) and Millar (2009) published additional comprehensive literature reviews specifically examining research on children with developmental disabilities and found no evidence that AAC hinders speech development. Indeed, in many cases, the children in these studies made modest gains in speech. It seems clear from these reviews that AAC interventions are important components of a comprehensive communication system for individuals with developmental disabilities.
     
  6. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 26, 2011

    I have no personal experience, beyond knowing that my cousin would vehemently disagree. I'll defer to her very well expressed opinions. My cousin, you see, has her Ph.D in communications and is a professor at a well respected university. Her 9 year old daughter also has Down's Syndrome. My cousin's child, though intensive therapy, which included ASL from infancy, speaks very, very well. The child's speech is only moderately worse than her grade level peers (though the child is the third grade instead of the 4th). My cousin firmly believes, as the above poster pointed out, that the ability to communicate by any method greatly increased her daughter's ability to learn to speak reasonably well.

    Oh, and I should also mention that the child also speaks French, and has a command of Latin that is on par with her developmentally appropriate command of English.
     
  7. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jan 26, 2011

    I don't have much knowledge about Down's Syndrome but I do know that a strong L1 is the primary concern. Right now that may be sign language. If the child is capable of speech (and perhaps with some therapy), knowing sign language won't hinder that, particularly when everyone around her talks.

    As far as signing being a different language than English, that's certainly true but in this case the child, I am assuming, has good hearing and hears correct (or mostly correct) English production all day. That provides support as well.

    I'm sure things are much more complicated than all of this. There is a lot of language development theories in play. My limitation is that I know how it applies to deaf children but I do not have experience with children with Down's Syndrome. But I also know that knowing sign language does not hinder speech production or even learning English. Other things play a much bigger role in these barriers than learning to sign.

    I'm not sure it directly applies as the exact same situation but consider that many children of deaf parents are exposed to sign only systems with their parents but learn to speak and learn English. Sometimes it can take a little longer but they get there just fine. Sometimes there might even be a lisp or something they copy from their parents if they speak but often through some therapy and often through exposure/modeling in school, etc. it corrects itself.
     
  8. tortega

    tortega Rookie

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    Jan 26, 2011

    Thank-you for your replies. your answers are consistent with what I and my friend thought. It's just good to hear after such a strongly worded alternate opinion. To clarify my friend signs as she speaks to her daughter and she has very good enunciation (she is a music teacher and singer) she also repeats and extends what her daughter signs to her (That's right it is a duck! What do ducks say?)

    My friend wasn't about to stop signing with her daughter. Taking away a two-year-olds ability to communicate would be about as fun as rolling around in poison oak.
     
  9. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jan 26, 2011

    She will hear lots of strongly worded opinions as a parent. I had someone tell my husband when my baby was 4 weeks old that the reason my child didn't sleep through the night was because he was breastfed. Umm... whatever.

    As a parent the advice out there can be bewildering. That's why it is always important to do your own research and come up with your own conclusions. :)
     
  10. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 26, 2011

    I'm a horrible parent according to many. My kids are respectful, well-spoken, kind-hearted and do well in school. The "many" can go jump off a bridge for all I care. A thick skin is one of the best tools of parenthood.
     
  11. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Jan 27, 2011

    https://www.babysigns.com/index.cfm?id=69 I know this is the research for Baby Signs, but it gives some insight on how it supports language growth and not hinder it.

    I have a brother with Downs and have worked with other preschoolers with Downs. Each child is different. Some are high functioning, some are not, some can talk, some can't. I won't hurt for a child with Downs to learn sign. That helps in the communication of needs. Which is better? Having a happy child with Downs that can sign their wants and needs or have a mad as all get out child with Downs because he/she can't express their wants and needs?
     
  12. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    Jan 27, 2011

    The person with a doctorate in speech clearly doesn't know as much about LANGUAGE, as opposed to SPEECH.

    Unfortunately, sign language has been getting a bad rap because some parents have noticed their child talking less as they learn sign language. For example, a two-year old child who only speaks one language may know 200 words. A child of similar age that is learning two languages (be it ASL, French, whatever) may know 100 words in one language, and 100 words in the other. Then we look at them and say "See! She's not speaking English as much! It must be the sign language!" There is also a certain age where the child will catch up to their peers and will know a similar number of words in BOTH languages, which puts them ahead of their peers.
     

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