July 9, 2015

International Congress on Education of the Deaf, Athens, Greece

Kate Crowe has just presented a paper at the International Congress on Education of the Deaf in Athens, Greece. Her paper was titled: Spoken language multilingualism and children with hearing loss: Perspectives from parents and professionals. The paper was very well received with not enough seats for the audience (people were standing around the walls and outside the door). The importance of the paper was commented on by members of the audience.
Introduction: The use of more than one language is a necessity of the majority of people in the world, including children with hearing loss. Children with hearing loss who use two or more spoken languages (multilingual children) are a complex group and little is known about their prevalence and development, or how choices are made about their language use.
Parents raising children with hearing loss in multilingual environments need to make informed choices about which language/s to use. Supporting such parents requires an explicit understanding of the factors parents and professionals consider when making these decisions.

Three perspectives were examined. First, the incidence of multilingualism for children (n=406) and their parents (n=792) was explored within a population-based sample of children with hearing loss. Second, parents were consulted regarding their choices about multilingualism and language use for their children. Third, professionals working in education settings with children with hearing loss were consulted about what they feel influence decisions about multilingualism and language choice.
Lower levels of multilingualism were evident in children (13%) compared to their parents (20%). Parents’ decisions were influenced by children’s audiological characteristics, planning for their children’s future academic success, culture and community considerations, and access to intervention and education in appropriate languages.
Australian children with hearing loss used a diverse range of languages and some were multilingual. Parent and professional insights into decision-making about multilingualism and language choice will support the development of appropriate services and supports for families raising children in multilingual environments.

Authors: Kathryn Crowe, Sharynne McLeod, Breda Carty, Teresa Ching, David McKinnon