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CDE Contracts with CSUN to Produce DVD on American Sign Language Benefits for Babies

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(NORTHRIDGE, Calif., May. 17th, 2010) ―

The California Department of Education (CDE), with a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, has contracted with California State University, Northridge to develop a DVD that documents and demonstrates the viability and benefits of American Sign Language (ASL) for all babies, with special focus on families with newly identified Deaf and hard of hearing babies and toddlers.

The DVD will be a valuable resource to show that ASL is a natural and vital language appropriate for all babies and families encompassing a wide variety of Deaf and hard of hearing children as well as Deaf children with special needs and children using a variety of assistive listening devices, officials said.

The 20-minute DVD will embody facts and values supporting the benefit of ASL as a natural, beneficial visual language for all people. Among the principles it will cover:

• Vision is the most natural pathway for language acquisition for Deaf and hard of hearing children; embracing the important role of ASL, a visual language, as it taps into the child’s strengths.

• Time is of the essence. Infancy is a critical period for language access and language acquisition. But it’s never too late—hearing people of all ages can learn ASL.

• ASL is a language for the whole family and community.

• Children can easily acquire and use more than one language at the same time.

• ASL is a “no-risk” pathway. There is no delay in acquisition; no ASL “failures.”

• ASL supports the development of written and spoke English.

• The correlation between ASL and English is clearly beneficial for social, educational and holistic development.

The principal co-investigators of the CDE/CSUN ASL DVD project are Rachel Friedman Narr, associate professor in Cal State Northridge’s Department of Special Education, and Roz Rosen, director of CSUN’s National Center on Deafness. The members of the steering committee include CSUN special education professor Ellen Schneiderman; Patrick Boudreault, assistant professor of Deaf studies at Northridge; Barbara Matusky, parent of two college-age Deaf children and a parent mentor; Lauren Maucere, a Deaf education teacher credential candidate; and David Kurs, a film producer.

“The intent of this project is to elicit a positive notion of ASL with respect to the dramatic benefits for people in the Deaf community,” said Andrew Laufer of the California Department of Education. “We believe that providing this message in a compelling DVD to parents of newborn children will help to assure them that the birth of a Deaf child is not a tragedy. We also believe this DVD will be useful in teacher training programs, as well as audiology and nursing programs.”

Rosen added: “Research supports ASL as beneficial for babies who can hear fully. This benefit is multiplied manifold for Deaf or visually oriented babies. Language is a human right that belongs to every child. ASL is an independent language and an invaluable component of bilingual language acquisition leading to positive family dynamics, effective communications, critical thinking and educational mastery.”

Friedman Narr agreed.

“This DVD will afford parents the opportunity to see the value of American Sign Language in the earliest stages of their child’s life,” she said. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Deaf education, Deaf Studies, the National Center on Deafness and the Cinema and Television Arts Department of CSUN to work together to make a lasting difference in the lives of young Deaf or hard of hearing children and their families.”

California State University, Northridge is nationally recognized for its dynamic programs serving Deaf and hard of hearing students and those who seek careers related to this population. CSUN was the first university in this country to establish Deaf Studies as a discipline and to employ professional interpreters and captionists, starting in 1964.

ASL is one of the most used languages in the United States and is accepted in schools and universities nationwide as one of the language electives for credit and as a required component for some degree programs.

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