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From Darkness To Baby Signing Enlightens

Our understanding of the way that hearing impaired children interact with the world – essentially our view of their cognitive functioning – has always influenced the way that people think they should be educated, regardless of whether that understanding was accurate. It would be beneficial to families to first look into the Social Security programs offered. They offer programs that would help in regards to baby signing and working with a certified and qualified sign language interpreter.

They are committed to communicating effectively with the public, which includes providing meaningful access to all SSA activities, programs, facilities, and services to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have some form of a hearing disability.

The aforementioned situation has had a great influence on disabled learners for centuries, but there are two issues of particular relevance to parents and teachers today. One is that there are some non-hearing adults who view their educational histories, including their ‘parents and teachers’ obsessions with spoken language, as a form of oppression, if not abuse.

It’s easy to do for a deaf child to learn sign language. This is great when one speak on a communicative standpoint.

As often as not, however, the people who voice such views are hearing people rather than non-hearing people, or hearing impaired people talking about the lives of others rather than their own learning abilities.

It is difficult to convince such individuals that most parents and teachers have always done their best to educate hearing impaired children, but that society has long been ignorant about the potential of children with any disability – not just those who can’t hear.

The second consequence of the cognition – education linkage is that as our understanding of cognitive psychology and cognitive development has grown, the education of these children has become more evidence based (shown by research to be effective) and tailored to their strengths and needs.

Within the field of psychology, the shift away from viewing children’s knowledge as essentially the same as that of pigeons and rats did not occur until the late 1960’s.

That change from an emphasis on external behavior (referred to as behaviorism) to an emphasis on what goes on in the mind (cognitive psychologywas occurring at the same time that we were thinking that the gestural systems used by deaf individuals in the United States and elsewhere were really language.

Both shifts reflected changes in society and science consistent with the times, and it will be worth briefly considering the intertwining of psychology and deaf education that brought us to where we are today -that led to the writing of this article.

The historical connection between views of deaf children’s cognitive abilities and their understanding can be seen as involving three or four historical stages.

The first stage, which has been referred to as the hearing impaired as inferiorresulted from work in the early 1900’s that seemed to show that non-hearing children were not as intelligent as their hearing peers.

It was during this time that psychologist studying intelligence first developed nonverbal intelligence test precisely so that they could measure the intelligence of these children.

We understand today that much of that research was influenced by the research (and society’s) belief that spoken language was an essential component of human intelligence.

Nevertheless, some of their findings, like disabled children’s difficulty in remembering sequences of items that are not meaningfully connected and children communicating in sign language, are still obtained.

Baby Signing Times | Communication In Learning Through Visual Skills.
Boy discover sound during left ear hearing test.

Today, however, we have a much better understanding of what those results really mean.

The second stage in thinking about cognition and knowledge among non-hearing children has been labeled the deaf as concrete.

From the 1940’s to the early 1960’s, research on disabled children’s hearing, problem-solving and literacy skills was interpreted to indicate that they were doomed to be concrete and literal, living in the here and now, with little ability for abstract thinking.

And the time, most psychologist believed that deaf people who did not speak did not have any language, and they failed to recognize that it was the way that we were teaching hearing impaired children and limiting their early experience – and not their hearing loss – that was responsible for many of the research findings and observed academic limitations.

That’s why dealing with the hearing impaired is no longer seen as being less capable of abstract thought than hearing children, teaching continue to struggle with non-hearing children’s tendencies to behave in apparently concrete ways in academic and social situations.

It was not until the 1970’s that psychologist and educators arrived at the point that is referred to the deaf as intellectually normal. 

Armed with the new cognitive psychology and a refined understanding of intelligence, researchers began to examine relations among cognition, language, and knowledge in the hearing impaired and hearing children.

Rather than seeing these children as lacking something, they finally recognized the influence of hearing impaired children’s early language and social experiences on their development and showed that, in terms of intelligence, they were quite normal.

We now know that hard-of-hearing children are just as capable of superior knowledge as are their hearing peers, and that hearing loss does not result in any insurmountable educational barriers.

In essence, people have come to accept that difference does not mean deficiency – the newest stage in understandings of the cognition-linkage in hearing impaired children.

The hard-of-hearing and hearing learners may vary in their approaches to various task, differ in their means of communication, and have different knowledge organized in different ways without such differences being good or bad.

This perspective has led us to examine differences between non hearing and hearing students as a way to better understand the intellectual development of deaf children and optimize their experiences in educational settings.

It is with that perspective that we now examine mind skills and commemoration in deaf children.

But before I go on, let me point out that mind skills are different from mind absorption, although both are a part of the same whole.

Gaining understanding is the acquisition of new knowledge, whereas commemoration refers to the storage and retrieval of knowledge.

Being ‘superior by study’ is used broadly here to mean information not only about things and ideas but also skills, such as how to type or ride a bicycle, and extremely complex skills like reading.



The main question generally raised among parents is, “How will deafness affect my child’s ability regarding a deeper understanding?

The key here will be understanding the foundations of this in terms of the knowledge and skills that non hearing children bring regarding mind context and how parents and teachers teach children to utilize their skills.

That is, what do hearing impaired children need to have in order to take advantage of educational opportunities and interventions, and how can we tailor our instructional methods to support them?

The society for research in child development could provide more additional information to help with those opportunities.

In seeking answers to these questions, parents and teachers often ask how non-hearing kids seeking knowledge compare to hearing ones.

Some people in our field believe that this is an inappropriate question and we should instead focus on deaf kid’s strengths and perhaps differences among the deaf as a function of language skills, school placement, parental hearing status, and so on.

Such an approach might make sense if we were dealing with children alone, but in a world where most deaf children have to compete in mainstream classrooms, it is essential that we understand ways in which their understanding, knowledge, and educationally relevant skills differ from the hearing children who will sit beside them.

Visual Skills

Babies born with less than normal hearing quickly learn to pay attention to the visual world: looking at facial movements of their caregivers, their gestures, and where they are looking- perhaps even before their caregiver realize the baby is can’t hear. 

Baby Signing Times | Communication In Learning Through Visual Skills.
Mother with hearing impaired daughter.

Although it is unclear exactly how that precedes, their learning skills (and the parts of their brains that deal with vision) consequently will develop somewhat differently than hearing babies for whom sights and sounds are usually connected.

Some scientist and practitioners claim that an emphasis on the visuals for babies with reduced hearing sensitivity might hinder their auditory skills.

Consistent with this view, auditory – verbal approaches to speech therapy, often include covering the speaker’s mouth so hard-of-hearing children have to learn to rely entirely on whatever hearing they have.

Being hard-of-hearing leads to children attending more to the visual periphery, therefore widening their knowledge of the visual field. This adaptation is important because it makes them more visually aware of what is happening around them.

Auditory Skills

Most of the research involving auditory skills among hearing impaired children is relatively recent, focusing on those with cochlear implants. While hearing aids and implants can help children hear better, children who use them still have to rely more on vision than do their hearing peers.

For them, visual and auditory skills can work together, providing mutually supporting or redundant sources of information. Auditory information can help them speech-read, draw their attention to visual information in the environment, and provide additional information about people and things.

With that said, this could mean that simultaneous communication would be beneficial for children with cochlear implants, but the issue has not yet been explored in any depth.

A variety of studies regarding the role of an audiologist and its position, along with the auditory and memory functions among children with cochlear implants has been conducted. Comparing them to hearing children, that research has not included deaf children who do not utilize implants, so it is difficult to draw any conclusions about deaf children in general.

Nevertheless, children with cochlear implants typically show shorter thought spans for auditory information because of speed of their internal speed (involved in memory rehearsal), like their external speech, is slower than that of hearing children.

Measuring (School) Skills

In some schools, such as the Better Hearing Institute, hearing impaired children’s learning, like hearing children’s learning, is usually evaluated in terms of the grades they receive on test, classroom work, and projects, as well as in overall yearly grades.

Assessment of children’s achievement, in contrast, typically relies on standardized test.

A variety of studies during the 1970’s reported that hearing impaired children with deaf parents scored higher on achievement test than did deaf children with hearing parents (even if they still lag behind hearing children).

Many people have concluded that such advantages were the result of early access to sign language, but that now appears not to be the case.

With regards to reading, parents who are able to provide their deaf children with effective access to through-the-air communication – signed or spoken – and to written language have children who are the best readers.



Deaf and hearing children can often remember things equally, even though they differ in how they process new knowledge store it, and find it again.

In other cases, deaf and hearing children may remember the same amount of information but differ in which information they remember from something they have seen.

We thus see again that the ways in which non-hearing children learn may not be the same as the ways hearing children learn.

Thoughts of the mind typically is described in terms of two components, short & long term thinking. If you stop and think about one of your elementary school teachers, you will be retrieving that information from your memory bank and putting it into the ‘working portion, or work-space where thinking goes on.

Long-term memory, then, is where you keep all of your thoughts, knowledge and skills. Short-term memory is where you have information that you are paying attention to right now.

New information has gone through the short-term memory part of your brain. Sometimes it gets there, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Bottom line: Children and adults who are fluent in a signed language have been shown to have better visual-spatial memory, regardless of whether they are deaf or hearing.


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14 thoughts on “Baby Signing Times | Communication In Learning Through Visual Skills.

  1. Hey Ronald,

    that is an amazing article you have put together there. Luckily, our son was born healthy and can hear well. I do, however, sometimes wonder how parents of deaf kids master all the challenges that come with it. What I think is especially challenging is learning how to sign, if you are a person who actually CAN hear. To me as someone who never really dived into it (but watched a few YouTube videos on the topic in the past, just because I was curious) it really feels like a complete different language. There is one thing I am wondering about and I am happy that I have an expert at hand now to give me an answer: Do people in, let’s say Germany, sign different that people in France or in Australia do? Or is it, due to its “semantic nature” an “international” language that every deaf person who knows how to sign would understand? Hope that question makes sense, but I’m really curious about it 🙂 Is there a sign-German, sign-French and sign-English? Or just sign?


    • Ronald Kennedy

      Hi Chris, glad you enjoyed my article. Happy to hear you have healthy children. That’s a blessing. Parents of deaf children do have a 24/7 job on their hands. Over time, they master the craft quite well. some resort to cd instructional tapes to learn sign. You asked if sign language is international? The answer to that is no. It is not.

      There is a different signed language in every country. In fact, some countries have several signed languages. Some signed languages have several “dialects”. Why? The best answer to that question, is with another question. “Why isn’t there an international spoken language?” 

      Chris, people did try to invent an international spoken language, called Esperanto. But few speak Esperanto. The naturally evolved spoken languages are used, but not the invented ones. Signed languages are no different. People tried to invent an international signed language, called Gestuno. But even though the attempt was admirable, no one really signs Gestuno. The naturally evolved signed languages “won”.
      American Sign Language (ASL) is used in the USA and in English-speaking Canada. 

      There are many dialects of ASL. Because of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C, and other fine schools for the Deaf, most ASL dialects are understood by Deaf people all over the country. 

  2. Anita Alig

    Thank you for this comprehensive insight into hearing difficulties, education, and teaching hearing-impaired children sign language. I would agree with you that the hearing community can be quite ignorant and insensitive when it comes to the needs and abilities of children and adults with hearing difficulties. It’s only by speaking about this issues that change can occur and attitudes can become more informed. So, thank you again

    • Ronald Kennedy

      Hi Anita, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you found some value in my site. Hearing disabilities in children is hard for any parent to cope with. When kids that are hearing disabled get inserted into the hearing community, other children and adults tend to start treating them differently from the others.

      Children with hearing loss would love to be accepted and treated no different than anyone else. Of course, all children are not alike. Some will take advantage of their disability and expect preferential differences in regards to the actions from others. But as long as the public continue to think negatively and displaying ignorant ways, things will never get better in our society regarding the treatment of our disabled children and adults alike.

      I personally feel, and you probably do too as well, more education on this subject should be offered in our school system. With qualified instructors trained in the field to teach ‘sensitivity courses,’ this in turn, perhaps will change attitudes of an ‘insensitive public and increased proper behaviour among our public.’ 

  3. Wow! what an informative article!
    I think it is a wonderful thing to help the hearing impaired. I myself am learning BSL, with a view to being able to help the hearing impaired in my community.
    Thank you for all your hard work in helping others to be able to reach babies and toddlers in this field.
    More should be done by society in general!

    • Ronald Kennedy

      Hi Marcie, how are you? Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed reading my article. I agree with you that, it is a great thing when more parents can capture this skill and teach it to their children. I feel it’s a good thing.

      It’s great that you’re learning BSL. Hearing impaired children from the UK can benefit greatly from your achievement. You can pass these skills to others. It’s interesting how BSL has it’s own grammatical structure and syntax. As a language, it is not dependent nor is it strongly related to spoken English. It’s been researched that BSL is the preferred language of around 145,000 people within the UK.

      Marcie, you’re absolutely right that more should be done within our society to fund programs related to this subject. In addition, more classes should be offered, within our educational system, that teaches this skill and provide quality education to those individuals willing to learn.  

      Thanks again Marcie for stopping by. Let me know if I can help you with anything else.

  4. This is a subject that i am familiar with as my ex girl friend was deaf and i learn about deaf culture and learnt how to sign BSL British Sign language, Children have a tremendous learning ability at a very young age and language is one of the first skills they learn, whether vocal or visual.Even babies will adapt by visual gesture and will learn quickly.

    • Ronald Kennedy

      Thank you Andrew for commenting. It’s sad that your ex-girlfriend had to deal with this terrible disability, but at the same time, you were able to gain some additional knowledge regarding signing. BSL. (at least, you guy’s were able to have a more bonding relationship back then, by communicating through sign.) I hope your ex is doing well!

      In regards to the children, they can absorb so much information than a person could imagine. They will easily use their eyes to follow a person’s facial expression and will mimic what they want or need. But keep in mind Andrew, that some babies and toddlers developmental learning curve is more advanced than others. Just like any normal person in life, we all move forward at our own individual pace. Hearing impaired children also do the same. They are no different!

      Thanks again Andrew for checking in with me. Let me know if I can do anything else.

  5. This was a very informative article on deaf children and sign language.

    I have an aunt who is hearing impaired. Even though she can communicate through speech, she is not able to hear anything so, a hearing aid or cochlear implant does not help her.

    When we are together, my aunt loves to teach me sign language in order for me to communicate with her better. And, as shown in the video you presented, I have learned that, even though someone may be deaf, it does not affect their cognitive abilities. As you pointed out, the only difference is that deaf people see the world completely visually while those of us with normal hearing see the world through both sight and sound.

    Did you know that deaf people can actually enjoy music? My aunt uses touch to feel the vibrations of sound and she can actually enjoy different types of music by placing her hands on the radio. She particularly enjoys blues jazz and parade music. I guess the vibrations are stronger for these types of music.


    • Ronald Kennedy

      Hi Jim and thank you for checking in. I’m glad you found some value in this post. it’s so sad when this disability affects our family members and other people we know and love. When you mentioned your aunt and her hearing situation, I assume she was born this way and never experienced the chance to enjoy the beauty of sound.

      If that wasn’t the case and her hearing gradually worsened over time to having no hearing at all, then earlier preventive measures such as hearing aids and cochlear implants should have been offered to her during those earlier times. When it comes down to health issues, you just can’t keep putting things off. Someone has to take control to make sure that person is getting the care needed.

      When you pointed out music. I read about that before while doing my research. The article pointed out how deaf babies and toddlers were stimulated in a remarkable and fascinating way just through sound and vibration. Isn’t that incredible, Jim? The other senses of the hearing impaired are stronger than we think!

      Thanks again Jim for commenting. Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

  6. Ronald,
    Excellent post about teaching sign language to babies and toddlers. I have 2 grandchildren living with me who are lucky enough to have perfect hearing. They are learning machines, always inquisitive and curious about the world around them. This is the best time to teach them and I can understand that children with hearing problems are no different in their search for knowledge, motor skills and use of their other senses. Communication is another skill that is being learned at this stage and speaking to them with mouth or with hands is essentially the same.
    Keep up your good work informing the world about signing for children and toddlers, there is so much misinformation still going around and your “voice” is needed.
    Thank you,

    • Ronald Kennedy

      Thank you Ed for commenting. As I write, I’m always thinking; “I’m I providing enough quality material that will help others?” I feel I do and that is what’s key. At any age, hearing loss can affect anyone in our families or families of others. it’s good that your grand kids have perfect hearing, so that’s something you have no need to worry about.

      You didn’t mention their ages, but I assume they’re very young. And young kids are very curious at any given age. Their little minds always looking to seek and absorbing new information, as you said, about the world around them. I’ve always recommended in the past that parents should (after learning the skills themselves), teach sign language to their young children. You’d be surprised to learn just how much information these little guys can comprehend.

      Thank you again Ed for checking in. Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

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