ABC NEWS - The Importance of Early Age Language Acquisition

On August 21, 2019, Kyle Miers (Chief Executive of Deaf Australia) was the first person to address the National Press Club of Australia in Auslan. Kyle used the opportunity to discuss how people who are Deaf and hard of hearing often struggle to participate meaningfully in society. Kyle also explained that over 90% of deaf children are born to family who have little or no knowledge about deafness.

Shortly after Kyle’s address, Brent Phillips, (Director, Language, Partnerships and Innovation at Expression Australia) was interviewed live on ABC NEWS about the importance of early age language acquisition in deaf children.

 “Access to language from the very early years is critical. It is so important for every Australian child to have an environment where they can communicate and express themselves whether they’re Deaf or not”, Brent said.

For Deaf and hard of hearing children, the decision of how the child will communicate is left up to the parents who have to make the best possible decisions for their child’s future. As Kyle expressed in his address, these parents are the 90% that have little or no knowledge about deafness. This usually means that there are two paths parents have to decide for their child to go down: the medical model, which involves the use of technology and oralism (using speech and lip-reading), or the cultural linguistic model (using Auslan and connecting with the Deaf Community).

The cultural linguistic model emphasises the development of language via Auslan at an early age through visual communication methods. This model also allows for the child to also be bilingual should the parents choose.

“There’s not always an opportunity for parents to make a fully informed decision,” Brent explains. “In 2019, I can honestly say that there are so many hundreds of deaf children who sit around their family dinner table and they’re not able to understand what their family may be talking about.”

“If you have access to language, particularly Auslan, it establishes strong foundations for future success in employment, education and social inclusion. It goes back to access to language that they are exposed to as young children.”

Expression Australia delivers a series of Auslan programs from Kindergarten through to community courses for adults. This includes Deaf awareness training for workplaces and organisations that work with Deaf and hard of hearing people who use Auslan.

Expression Australia's term 4 Auslan community courses start this October and are open for enrolment in locations around Victoria and Tasmania. Expression Australia's courses teach the building blocks of Auslan including how to fingerspell, develop a vocabulary of basic conversational signs, learn how to structure a sentence and more. 

Click here to find out more about Expression Australia's Auslan courses today.


Kyle Miers’s National Press Club of Australia address can be viewed on ABC iView here. (The link will expire after 20 September, 2019)



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