The implementation of the principles of sign bilingualism in a self-described sign bilingual program: Implications for the evaluation of language outcomes


In the past two decades, ‘non-oral’ or ‘pro-signing’ approaches to the education of deaf children have increasingly described themselves as bilingual and bicultural (‘BiBi’) programs. There has been a shift away from Total Communication programs and/or programs that use Manually Coded English (MCE) systems such as Seeing Essential English, Signing Exact English, and Signed English, as developed and used in North America; Sign Supported English in Britain, and Australasian Signed English in Australia and New Zealand (Jeanes, Reynolds, & Coleman, 1989). Some of these programs have been replaced or succeeded by sign bilingual programs (as bilingual/bicultural pro-grams will be referred to in this paper) as educators have increasingly better

understood native sign languages (or NSLs after Fischer, 1995) and their role

in the linguistic development and education of deaf children. Educators have

also increasingly recognized the structural limitations of English conveyed in a

sign-based manual mode and the inherent deficiencies of Simultaneous Com-

munication (the favored environment for MCEs), notably the conflict between

signing and speaking at the same time while trying to maintain a natural rate of

delivery (Baker, 1978; Drasgow & Paul, 1995).