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Appl Psycholinguist. 2015 Jul 1;36(4):855-873.

Attention-getting skills of deaf children using American Sign Language in a preschool classroom.

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1
University of California, San Diego.

Abstract

Visual attention is a necessary prerequisite to successful communication in sign language. The current study investigated the development of attention-getting skills in deaf native-signing children during interactions with peers and teachers. Seven deaf children (aged 21-39 months) and five adults were videotaped during classroom activities for approximately 30 hr. Interactions were analyzed in depth to determine how children obtained and maintained attention. Contrary to previous reports, children were found to possess a high level of communicative competence from an early age. Analysis of peer interactions revealed that children used a range of behaviors to obtain attention with peers, including taps, waves, objects, and signs. Initiations were successful approximately 65% of the time. Children followed up failed initiation attempts by repeating the initiation, using a new initiation, or terminating the interaction. Older children engaged in longer and more complex interactions than younger children. Children's early exposure to and proficiency in American Sign Language is proposed as a likely mechanism that facilitated their communicative competence.

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