Hunter’s Elaine Gale, coordinator of the School of Education’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, is one of three recipients of a $2,956,801 five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Most deaf children are born to hearing parents, and many believe that a parent’s unfamiliarity with American Sign Language can slow a child’s linguistic, cognitive, and social-emotional development. Some, including many parents and educators, are concerned that hearing parents may not be able to learn sign language well enough or fast enough to benefit a deaf child, and that a parent’s poor use of American Sign Language will harm a child rather than help. Until now, little research has been done to confirm or refute these beliefs.
Now, working with two other experts, Professor Gale is conducting that crucial research. With her co-Lead Investigator Deborah Chen Pichler of Gallaudet University and Principal Investigator Diane Lillo-Martin of the University of Connecticut, she is studying the progress of young children whose parents learn American Sign Language right alongside them. The children in the study are enrolled in early-childhood education programs for the deaf.
“There’s a pressing need to confront the conventional wisdom,” Professor Gale says, “because it may prevent parents from pursuing ASL as an option for their deaf and hard-of-hearing children.”