In Iquitos, Peru, a city of about 500,000 in the Peruvian Amazon, there is a disparity in the sign language skills of deaf individuals based on age. Large numbers of deaf adults use Peruvian Sign Language (LSP) as their primary means of communication and interact with one another at deaf association and church gatherings. In contrast, the majority of deaf youth younger than eighteen years old grow up primarily in hearing environments, without access to spoken Spanish or LSP. In order to communicate with the hearing individuals around them, many develop rudimentary manual communication systems, called homesigns. The disparity in language skills between deaf youth and deaf adults has not always been so prominent. In the past, deaf students in Iquitos gained access to LSP by attending one of four special education schools, where they could routinely interact with deaf peers and, sometimes, deaf adults. In recent years, however, deaf youth have been placed in regular education "inclusive" classrooms, where they are typically the only deaf person in the school and receive no support services to access the language of the classroom. This change in policy has had the unintended effect of cutting off the previous pathways by which deaf youth in Iquitos gained access to LSP in the classroom. Thus, the adoption of "inclusive" education as the new special education policy has resulted in large numbers of deaf youth relying on homesigns as their primary form of communication. This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork with deaf individuals in Iquitos that has been ongoing since 2010.


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pp. 348-374
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