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News and Views: Policy Statement


This document sets out the policy of the Scottish Cochlear Implant Unit, Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock in respect of the use of Sign Language with paediatric Cochlear Implant (CI) users.

This document is intended for guidance and seeks neither to constrain the exercise of professional judgement nor to limit options in particular cases.

Purpose of Document

The document sets out policy for implementation by professionals working within the unit.  It deals only with deafness and the use of cochlear implants and is not intended to apply where other pathologies co-exist.

Intended Readership

Speech and Language Therapists (S&LTs) and Teachers of the Deaf (ToDs) within the implant unit for action.  Community professionals for information.

Policy Statement

The aim of habilitation should be to maximise each child’s potential for the acquisition of spoken language while taking into account existing mode of communication.  For the purposes of this document Paediatric CI users may be divided into three broad categories at implantation: (1) young pre-verbal children, (2) young children who are users of sign and (3) older children already having some spoken language and no sign.

Young Pre-Verbal Deaf Children

These users will, in general, be early-implanted children who have the potential to acquire spoken language in the normal way using the sensory input from the implant.  The goal should be to help these children achieve their potential through immersion in a spoken language environment with the support of natural gesture.

Users of Sign at Implantation

These children have some functional manual communication skills prior to implantation.  Post-implant, manual communication and spoken language will be used simultaneously with the emphasis shifting gradually towards spoken language only.  Initially, the child should be encouraged to associate common spoken phrases with meaningful experiences which form part of their everyday routine e.g. “time for bed”, “get your shoes”.  In addition, the child should be encouraged to recognise the spoken form of single words they already possess in sign using all available visual and auditory cues.  Every opportunity should be taken to introduce new vocabulary in spoken language form and not sign.  The clinician/teacher should exercise judgement in determining the need for signed support.

Users Who Have Some Spoken Language and No Sign

These are generally older children who have used hearing aids consistently and developed sufficient spoken language to build upon.  The habilitation process will be directed at encouraging these users to learn to associate the new sensory information received from the implant with the existing verbal lexicon.  This should be an aural/oral process.