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SIMULTANEOUS COMMUNICATION: THE STATE OF THE ART & PROPOSALS FOR CHANGE Madeline M. Maxwell The theory & practice of simultaneous communication It has been about twenty years since the beginning of the modern movement towards the officially sanctioned use of signing in education of deaf children in most programs across the United States. Initially widely heralded as a major advancement (if not a panacea) in educational philosophy and technique, the practice of "Total Communication " (TC) and its results have ultimately turned out to delight some, infuriate others, and thoroughly confuse most of the rest of us. In the beginning, the ideas appeared quite simple to most people: Accept and use a broader range of communication modes with deaf children, insist no longer on purely oral methods; Improve children's access to communication and to the structure (and so acquisition) of English by devising ways to represent English manually; Avoid discouraging or repressing the use of ASL by children (although, within the curriculum, language development efforts would continue to be almost exclusively based on English), and so on. The movement was supported by a group of studies comparing adolescents: in one line of research adolescents were found to understand more information when it was presented with signs than in speech alone; in the second line of research, adolescents who had had different early experiences, including deaf parents and early sign language, outperformed children whose parents were hearing and who had only oral language, etc. (e.g. Stuckless & Birch 1966; Meadow 1968). In the most elaborate of the retrospective comparative studies (Brasel & Quigley 1977), adolescent students were divided into four groups: manual English, ASL, intensive oral, and average oral. The manual English group outperformed all other groups in English syntax, reading, and general achievement. In a study of children from different types of preschools, Moores and his colleagues (Moores, Weiss & @1990 by Linstok Press, Inc. See note inside front cover. ISSN 0302-1475 Goodwin 1978) found developmental advantages for children in programs using manual communication as compared to children in oral programs. The implementation of manual English systems led, of course, to a flurry of activity in a two-pronged effort during the 1970s: first, many attempts to formalize or standardize methods for the representation of English, and, second, a mobilization to persuade teachers and parents to use these systems. Relatively few individuals at the time were concerned about such issues as bilingualism (but see Stokoe 1972, Williams 1980), psychological ramifications of bimodality (Ling 1976), the role of ASL in educating deaf children or, for that matter, whether TC as it was first implemented was even physically possible, not to mention effective for instruction. The issue for most people was whether to sign at all, more than the particular way of signing; and most advocates proposed signing simultaneously while speaking. The idea was inherently attractive-for many educators, quite liberating-and so it was not examined quite as critically at first as it was later. But from the beginning there were doubts about TC, and recently there has been a stir about the practice of TC, lamenting what appears to be a ceiling on the success of education of deaf children. Critical analyses of TC have been presented, and numerous suggestions have been made for changes some more radical than others. A case in point is the recent program paper distributed by members of the Gallaudet University Linguistics Department (Johnson, Liddell & Erting 1989). Among other things, these authors review some of the research on TC and conclude that it is inherently doomed to failure. They indicate that simultaneous communication is "really sign supported speech," (SSS). Indeed, early advocates of simultaneous communication in the education of deaf children, e.g. Gustason (Gustason, Pfetzing & Zawolkow 1972) and Bornstein (1975), clearly intended for sign to support and clarify speech. Bornstein's early story books included not only illustrations of signs but also pictures of faces with the appropriate mouth shapes. Johnson et al. (1989) offer a counter-proposal that ASL be taught to deaf children as their first language, with English to be taught subsequently as a second language, and this bilingual program be supported by the suppression of simultaneous communication. Attempts SLS 69 Maxwell SC &proposals for change...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6263
Print ISSN
0302-1475
Pages
pp. 333-390
Launched on MUSE
2013-10-02
Open Access
No
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