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American Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) is a manual language that involves the use of hand configurations, facial gestures, body posture, range, direction, and movement in space to exchange meaning between people. This language is primarily used by persons who are deaf and do not use speech to communicate. Once thought of as only "pictures in the air," ASL is recognized as a true language with elaborate linguistic rules.

ASL is used with young children who are deaf as a means of facilitating the natural acquisition of language. When born into families that use sign language to communicate, deaf babies are know to "babble" with their hands in a similar manner as hearing children babble with early sounds. In the presence of fluent users of ASL, deaf children acquire sign as quickly and easily as hearing children acquire speech. English is typically taught as a second language to promote literacy.


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Paul, Peter V. Literacy and Deafness: The Development of Reading, Writing, and Literate Thought. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.

Paul, Peter V., and Stephen P. Quigley. Language and Deafness, 2nd edition. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group, 1994.

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Schirmer, Barbara R. Language and Literacy Development in Children Who Are Deaf. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Donna J. Crowley

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 1