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American Annals of the Deaf

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American Sign Language and Early Literacy: A Model Parent-Child Program
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Because both Deaf and hearing parents participated in our program, the different roles and contributions of these parents became central research issues. I chose to focus on both groups of parentsí experiences in and contributions to the program in the overall context of Ontario infant hearing screening and early intervention services. In addition, the child participants ranged in age from 4 to 11 months at the beginning of our program, and had varying degrees of exposure to ASL. Because the child participants were so young, I decided to focus on emergent ASL literacy. The goals of the program leader and the issue of public resources were also viewed in the context of Ontario infant hearing screening and early intervention services.

During the 8-week time period when our program was held, I also attended several related events, including a family event hosted by DSA and DCOís annual general meeting. I also met with the program leader and DSA staff outside of our program to follow up with themes that had emerged during my research and with administrative issues related to our program.

Data Collection

In observing and recording all participants in addition to my own actions and experiences during the program, I employed multiple methods of qualitative data gathering in concurrent phases: open-ended and structured observations, semistructured and focus group interviews, and a document review.

I used field notes and videotaping of programs for observations. The video data of each program session enabled me to further observe and analyze the program in addition to many of the interviews. The detailed field notes that I took during and immediately following each program session recorded the themes of child participantsí visual attention, response, and use of language play and the parent participantsí independent use and improvisations of ASL rhymes, in addition to other themes that emerged. I also took field notes during and after the DSA family event and DCO board of directorsí meeting that I observed.

I conducted interviews in both ASL and English. An ASL interpreter was present for the duration of the 8-week program to allow free and easy communication between Deaf and hearing parents and the Deaf program leader and researcher. I recorded interview data via field notes and video camera, translated interviews into English (from the ASL video data), and transcribed them for further analysis. The initial, semistructured interviews that I conducted with parent participants were aimed at exploring the extent of parents and childrenís previous experience with ASL, ASL literature, and other types of early intervention services. I also conducted semistructured, follow-up interviews with the program leader at the end of each program session and outside of our program. These interviews enabled me to explore and clarify the program leaderís teaching goals, observations, and perspectives on various issues. Discussions that focused on parentsí use of ASL rhymes at home and childrensí response took the form of focus group interviews led by the program leader. At the beginning of each program session, he reviewed each parent participantís progress with using ASL rhymes and stories and asked how their child had responded. In addition, over the course of our program several group discussions took place about issues relating to Deaf culture, hearing loss, and hearing technology.

My review of Parent-Child Mother Goose Program and ASL Parent-Child Mother Goose Program training and resource materials enabled me to gather data regarding program objectives and compare the support and resources that were respectively available to the spoken-language and ASL programs.

All qualitative data was transcribed and organized thematically by a set of coding schemes. I categorized the data into themes: the issue of available resources for Deaf and hearing parents, the impact of gatekeepers, child response to ASL rhymes and stories, comparisons made by participants between hearing and Deaf people and perspectives on Deaf identity, name signs, the roles of Deaf and hearing mothers, the program leaderís goals and role, and suggestions for improvements to the program.

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