Auslan is a critical communication tool for many deaf and hard of hearing children. It helps them to express themselves, connect with others, and participate fully in society from a very young age.
At Deaf Children Australia, we’ve experienced the importance of Auslan for empowering deaf and hard of hearing children and ensuring they have access to language and the communication supports to meet their individual needs.
Auslan, is Australian sign language, and we’re strong advocates for its use in the wider community together with a greater understanding of deaf awareness. It all starts with knowledge and information, which is the purpose of this article.
Below, we explore the many wonderful benefits of teaching Auslan to children, the role Auslan plays in early childhood education, and how parents and educators can offer support to children learning the language.
The Advantages of Integrating Auslan Sign Language into Early Childhood Education
Introducing Auslan to deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children’s early childhood education has been shown to lead to improved communication skills and stronger connections with others. In childhood, learning Auslan helps kids express their thoughts, feelings, and needs more easily, which in turn enhances their social skills and self-confidence.
What’s more, research shows that early exposure to sign language promotes cognitive and linguistic development, leading to better outcomes for the child as they grow. By learning Auslan at this early stage, when children’s brains love absorbing information, they can learn quickly and maintain these skills long into adulthood.
The Role of Auslan Sign Language in Early Childhood Education
Incorporating Auslan into early childhood education is essential for ensuring deaf and hard of hearing children receive equal opportunities to learn and succeed. So how is it achieved? Generally, Auslan is integrated into play-based learning through the use of sign language interpreters in childcare settings and by providing training in sign language to early childhood educators.
Consider bilingual programs, for example. Many children learn an additional language to their native one in early education or primary school. Auslan can be taught alongside other languages in early education through bilingual programs that integrate both Auslan and English, enabling children to develop proficiency in both languages from a young age.
How Parents and Educators Can Support the Learning of Auslan Sign Language
Just as for children learning anything new, parents and educators play a pivotal role in helping and encouraging deaf and hard of hearing children to learn Auslan. They can support this learning process by:
- Engaging toddlers in Auslan through sign language classes, books, and online resources tailored to their developmental stage.
- Encouraging the use of Auslan in daily life and social interactions, creating opportunities for practice and improvement. Encouragement can take on many forms, but even cheering them on as they learn a new word is a great way to promote their learning.
- Collaborating with professionals, such as speech therapists and deaf education specialists, to develop individualised learning plans for children.
- For classrooms, educators can foster a supportive and inclusive environment that values and respects the unique needs and abilities of deaf and hard of hearing toddlers.
DCA’s Resources to Assist Learning
As an organisation on a mission to enhance inclusion for young deaf and hard of hearing people, Deaf Children Australia (DCA) provides learning resources and posters. We have a range of bilingual resources (Auslan and English) to help families build language with their deaf or hard of hearing child.
You can find Auslan Alphabet and Counting in Auslan on the Resource Hub section of our website. These posters can be used at home, school, or wherever you want to encourage the learning of Auslan. If you want something a little more engaging, our Platypus Playhouse range is designed to help build Auslan skills for your child, your family, carers and friends through playful and fun activities.
Another aspect of our language inclusion is a more pervasive community approach. We are delivering inclusive programs to local community clubs to help them support the communication needs of DHH children.
Puggles Swim is our program that helps to teach swimming instructors Auslan so that deaf and hard of hearing children can join community classes, feeling included while learning to be safe in the pool. We also run Blueprint, which helps local community sports clubs to know how to support DHH young people.
Making a more inclusive world requires us all to do our best. By incorporating Auslan into early childhood education and fostering supportive environments, parents and educators can play an invaluable role in ensuring the success and well-being of these children. This encouragement, paired with resources such as the pens offered by DCA can enable children to communicate, connect, and thrive in a world that often overlooks their unique needs.
Empower communication and transform lives with Auslan – Explore courses and resources at Deaf Children Australia!