Language Deprivation Syndrome

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Gulati, S. (2014). Language deprivation syndrome. ASL Lecture Series.

In this ASL lecture, Dr. Gulati talks about the reality of language deprivation in many deaf persons and the impact of language deprivation on development. He also summarizes research from 98 persons with language deprivation seen in his clinic. Language deprivation, as measured by age of exposure to sign language and current sign language skills, was very highly correlated with dangerousness to others. He then addresses limitations in cochlear implant research, principally that outcome studies measure acquisition of vocabulary but not language. Large numbers of deaf children with cochlear implants are not acquiring anything approaching language fluency. His lecture is followed by interesting dialogue with members of his audience. Dr. Gulati describes the kinds of cognitive and language problems he has seen in persons with severe language deprivation. Examples include difficulties with abstract thinking, inability to arrange narratives in a linear sequence, and difficulties with constructs like cause and effect.

Hall, W. C. (2017, February 9). What you don’t know can hurt you: The risk of language deprivation by impairing sign language development in deaf children. Journal of Maternal Child Health.

This article presents a commentary on the dangers to deaf children that come with denying them access to sign language in their critical language learning years. The commentary synthesizes research outcomes with signing and non-signing children and highlights fully accessible language as a protective factor for healthy development. Brain changes associated with language deprivation may be misrepresented as sign language interfering with spoken language outcomes of cochlear implants. Language deprivation puts deaf children at risk for cognitive delays, mental health difficulties, lower quality of life, a higher level of trauma, and limited health literacy.

Hall, W. C., Leven, L. L., & Anderson, M. L. (2017). Language deprivation syndrome: A possible neurodevelopmental disorder with sociocultural origins. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 1-16.

There is a need to better understand the epidemiological relationship between language development and psychiatric symptomatology. Language development can be particularly impacted by social factors—as seen in the developmental choices made for deaf children, which can create language deprivation. A possible mental health syndrome may be present in deaf patients with severe language deprivation. The researchers conducted an extensive review of existing databases to identify publications focusing on language development and mental health in the deaf population. They review the literature supporting the existence of a condition they propose be called “language deprivation syndrome” and recommend research to formalize the diagnostic criteria.