Date of Completion

Spring 4-9-2022

Thesis Advisor(s)

Doreen Simons, Linda Pelletier

Honors Major

American Sign Language


American Sign Language


The prevalence of language deprivation in deaf and hard of hearing youth makes the United States public education system fundamentally inaccessible to that portion of the population. Previous research has demonstrated that depriving prelingually deaf children of an accessible, visual language during the critical language acquisition period has long-term effects on their reading comprehension, mental health, social development, and cognitive development (Friedman and Rusoe, 2015; Hall et al., 2019; Cheng et al., 2019; Hall, 2017). Furthermore, the lack of bilingual-bimodal education (or purely signed education) in the United States public education system sets deaf children up for failure, as they are expected to learn in a language that is inaccessible to them, or accessible to them only through an interpreter (Murray et al., 2019). Suppose that the deaf child has some basis of a language (e.g. is exposed to a signed language after the age of three, has a deaf non-immediate family member, parents taught them some signed language, etc.) and is provided with an interpreter at their public school. Contrary to what has been assumed by the education system and legislators, it is detrimental to the student’s learning to have an interpreted education over an education instructed in their accessible language (Caselli et al., 2020). This paper will discuss language deprivation during the critical acquisition period and how it relates to numerous failures on the part of the United States’ public education system to accommodate deaf children. It will also propose possible changes that the Deaf community believes to be appropriate to properly accommodate those children so that they are able to thrive.