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Stacie Smith


This thesis presents data supporting the value of including American Sign Language (ASL) in the education of Deaf people. Historically, Deaf education has not fully included or has excluded ASL in an effort to focus on English due to a belief that ASL hinders learning English. ASL must fit within the definition of language with unique linguistic features for its inclusion in language education. Plasticity of the brain lends itself to the ability for language processing networks to form based on language experience. Deaf people can fully access visual language versus auditory language. Therefore, acquiring ASL early in life, during the critical period, allows Deaf people to establish a strong language foundation, upon which they could also learn English. Late language learning alters neural networking, which can lessen one’s ability to process language and use other cognitive processes. Despite differing modalities, ASL and English engage similar neural networks, called language regions. Consequently, ASL follows similar cognitive processes to English, which supports the value of ASL as a language fully accessible for Deaf people to acquire and use. Learning ASL prepares Deaf people for success in communication, learning English, and other endeavors in life because of effective neural networking.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License