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American Annals of the Deaf

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Literacy and Your Deaf Child: What Every Parent Should Know

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When creating writing experiences around the house, bear in mind the following six points:

1. Write about familiar things. This is especially important during the early years of learning to write. Whether you or your child selects the topic, it is always easier to write about experiences that are very familiar—a guideline that many best-selling authors follow. Typically, the ones that the child selects will be related to real-life events (e.g., shopping with mom, fishing with dad) and people and things they know well (e.g., friends, pets, games).

2. Provide guidance as needed. Unlike the learning of words, signs, phrases, sentences, and syntax in conversation, where the child creates his own strategies, the exploration of the printed word in reading and writing often reflects adult influences. Parents usually will point out words on cereal boxes and other packaging, advertisements, newspapers, magazines, storybooks, and the like, which the child combines with his own individual experiences to develop a personal learning style for coping with script. You can provide a list of words your child may choose from, be available to help with the writing if your child should ask, provide a starting sentence if he needs it, or have a conversation in which you can provide some clues that your child may use in his writing.

3. Be flexible in your expectations. Accurate spelling, neat handwriting, and correct punctuation may be desirable characteristics, but they are not necessarily features of strong writing skills. Today, keyboarding skills have come to replace handwriting as the preferred writing tool. This is not to deny that handwriting is a valuable skill but rather to suggest that remedial handwriting instruction for young children may not be as important as the attention given to creative aspects, such as planning, organizing, and analyzing their own writing. These are the aspects that really count in the overall development of good writing habits.

4. Praise your deaf child’s strengths. Praise is always more effective than criticism for reinforcing desirable skills. Be specific and honest in your comments, because false praise is also ineffective. Remember that if a child enjoys writing, he will keep at it; and generally, the more he writes, the better he will become.

5. Prominently display your child’s writing. Encourage your child’s writing efforts by displaying his written work on the refrigerator door, walls, doors, or even a notice board specifically put up for that purpose.

6. Get the whole family involved in writing. Here’s a truism about our society: Everyone likes to receive things. Presents are great, but a note on the counter, e-mail messages, and a letter slipped under the bedroom door are also appreciated. Make it a family practice to write notes to one another. It doesn’t take long, for example, for an older sibling to write a note to a younger deaf sibling.

Robert, I heard you did well on your math test today. I’m going to try to do better on mine. Love Susan
Put your deaf child in charge of writing down chores for the family (after consulting with you of course).

Isabella, take garbage out.

Judith, pull weeds.

Everyone. Keep the cat out of the pantry.

Dad, stay out of my room!

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