The biggest question we want to solve is how to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing communities through language acquisition of sign language and spoken language. The problem that currently exists in the world is that hearing parents often hold a stigma of deafness and they are more inclined to give their babies cochlear implants to help them regain hearing rather than to expose their babies to sign culture. However, this causes the babies to lose a year of time to be exposed to language when they are young and therefore lags behind in language acquisition. These children often find it hard to acquire other subjects in school.

After brainstorming and talking to our experts, we have came up with the following solution:

Develop a new curriculum for graduate school degrees for social work that emphasize on the deaf culture and help deaf babies to be exposed to sign language from birth.

We think this solution can be very beneficial because we are directly changing the perspectives of hospital social workers who would, therefore, change the stigma hearing parents hold about deafness and sign languages.

The paper prototype we decided to make is a storyboard of the big steps we are going to do to reach our end goal. We also included smaller steps of how to implement these steps in writing.

To be more specific, the steps we are taking are:

Steps to take:

1. "Prototype curriculum" that serves as a proof of concept

  • in one school, at Penn for example
  • A guest seminar
  • invite a professor who is very experienced at this issue and has done a lot of research regarding acquisition of sign language and deaf culture
  • gives an overview of how problematic it is when hearing parents don't expose deaf babies to sign language and instead wait for babies to get hearing aids at age 1
  • gives an overview of how medical intervention does not solve the problem
  • gives an overview of conflicting beliefs of deaf community vs hearing community in regards to hearing aids.
  • surveys before and after the seminar
  • pre-seminar survey include questions includes What does deafness mean? What would you do if hearing parents gave birth to a deaf baby? Would you encourage them to give the baby hearing aid? Would you encourage them to learn sign language? Would you encourage them to seek help from the deaf community? Would you encourage them to connect the child to a native signer? What is the critical age of language acquisition? Do you think the process of language acquisition is different for a spoken language compared to a sign language? To what extent do you think hearing aids will help a deaf baby? Do you know what these resources do?
  1. american society for deaf children
  2. hands and voices
  4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  5. National Association of the Deaf
  • post-seminar survey includes the exact same questions above as well as the following: do you want to learn more about this issue? what is the most valuable piece of advice you will give hearing parents who give birth to a deaf baby?
  • analyze survey results to see if the seminar shows an improvement in students knowledge about deaf culture and  the importance of acquisition of sign language in deaf babies.

2. Develop a course to implement in one school as an elective

  • Prototype curriculum includes lectures/seminars on the deaf community, the importance of sign language acquisition and introductory sign languages. Students who have completed the curriculum should have sufficient knowledge about the resources that could be provided to the families who have deaf babies, and the students should also be able to sign simple words and sentences.
  • Should invite professionals to develop the curriculum, including Current social workers, experts in sign language, experts in language acquisition, experts in deaf culture or members of the deaf community, Professionals who work in American Society for deaf children
  • Curriculum should be proofread many times by authority figures in the Deaf community and Linguistics field. The curriculum would include:
  1. Courses to teach students to use ASL
  2. Teach students how cochlear implants and hearing aids work and their impact on the child
  3. Courses that familiarize students with deaf culture that invites a speaker who is in the deaf community to speak regularly, and familiarize students with the conflicting beliefs existing between hearing community and the deaf community
  4. Courses on how to interact with deaf babies and their parents, how to socialize children to others who are hearing, and how to guide parents to have a positive mentality.
  5. Courses on biological consequences of hearing loss and implications for language acquisition, Linguistics and brain development component

3. Implement the curriculum statewide.

  • Garner support from state-level deaf advocacy services programs (PA Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing for example), and State board of education.
  • Get funding to implement program in public and state universities as well as community colleges, that rely upon state funding

4. Test the results of the newly implemented program

  • Make the course required for all graduates in social work and education at that school
  • Successful completion of the course qualifies graduates to work with deaf children in the state
  • Test the results of the curriculum by interviewing parents who work with these social workers

5. Establish a network

  • Deaf babies are paired with a trained social worker who will expose the baby to sign language after they are born, and guide the parents how to communicate/ educate their children.
  • Track the language learning process of deaf babies. Compare the results between babies whose family received help from the trained social worker and those whose family did not receive help from the trained social worker.
  • If the result shows promising future of our curriculum, we will implement nationwide.
  • Given the success at the state school level, private grad schools will also implement the coursework as a means to stay competitive in graduate education and social work
  • Possible certificate for specialization in ASL/deaf socialization
  • All ASL interpreters and deaf services counselors must obtain the certification in order to be employed by the state

People to talk to:

  1. Jami Fisher. Senior Lecturer, American Sign Language Program Director. University of Pennsylvania.
  2. Janet Shapiro. Dean of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Professor of Social Work, and Director of the Center for Child and Family Wellbeing. Bryn Mawr College.
  3. Sheila B. Kamerman. Compton Foundation Centennial Professor Emerita of Social Work for the Prevention of Children’s and Youth Problems; Co-Director, Institute for Child and Family Policy at Columbia University; Co-Director, Cross-National Studies Research Program. Columbia University.
  4. Tom A. Croxton. Professor Emeritus of Social Work. Professor Croxton is interested in the nexus of law and social work in the practice areas of child welfare, mental and physical health, education, child custody, and juvenile justice.