African Health Sciences

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The reality of every day communication for a deaf child using sign language in a developing country.

Zandile M Blose, Lavanithum N Joseph


Background: Research that focuses on the communication between deaf children and their hearing families is scarce despite the majority of deaf children being born into hearing families where a common communication mode needs to be forged.
Objective: The aim of the study was to explore, describe and compare the nature of communication across typical daily contexts of a deaf child who uses South African Sign Language (SASL) and who is born into a hearing family with no prior experience of SASL.
Methods: A case study design which included quantitative and qualitative components was used to observe a nine year old grade one child with profound hearing loss. Spontaneous communication was observed with 13 communication partners in the home context and these included the mother, a sibling and peers. Two educators and 11 peers were observed in the educational context. Surveillance cameras were used to obtain 27 hours of video-recording in the home and 19 hours at the school. Interviews were conducted with the mother, siblings, educators, and the deaf child.
Results: It was observed that communication using SASL, albeit minimal, home signs, natural gestures and oral communication were used extensively. Due to a mismatch in the communication mode in the home context communication interactions were fewer and predominantly oral, impoverished and with frequent breakdowns whereas the communication interactions in the school were characterized by SASL, was meaningful and had fewer communication breakdowns.
Conclusion: Communication for deaf children within the home is problematic as communication partners are not fluent in SASL.

Keywords: Deaf child, sign language, developing country.
AJOL African Journals Online