We are Ivan and Nicole, the parents from ‘Keeping up with the Callaghans’ on Instagram and YouTube. We have 4 beautiful daughters: Vera 9, Ophelia 8, Lucinda 6, and lastly Esmeralda 2.5 - we often call her ‘Baby”. All of us, except Vera, are Deaf, Vera is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). We use Auslan 24/7, and we think it is such a beautiful language.
Ivan is third-generation Deaf, with Deaf parents and grandparents, which makes our girls the 4th generation. Ivan has 2 Deaf brothers, who also have Deaf partners. He was a born storyteller! Ivan’s family watched him signing big, beautiful and imaginative stories in Auslan growing up, and now he entertains in Visual Vernacular as a storytelling artist. Ivan grew up with language and never felt left out from communications – he knew what everyone in his family was talking about. He would often eavesdrop on conversations, just like hearing children in hearing families! In his spare time he loves to do photography. The Deaf community has been part of his life since he was born.
Nicole is the only Deaf person in her family, she grew up with her single mother, an older sister and two younger brothers. Unlike Ivan who grew up with 24/7 access to language and information, she often felt left out from her family and the community. This was frustrating for Nicole. Her family learned some ‘Signed English’, but it wasn’t enough, as she couldn’t have deep conversations with them, or express her emotions. They are now learning Auslan to build their relationship with our family – it’s never too late to learn Auslan! Nicole grew up without a Deaf identity and struggled to know her identity and her place in the world. When she was 16 years old, she met people in the Deaf community and discovered her Deaf identity. She is now happy and proud of who she is as a Deaf woman.
Our aim with No Wasted Auslan is to make Australians more aware of Australian Sign Language (Auslan), as this is a really important language and communication tool for the Deaf Community.
As 97% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children are born to hearing parents, often being the first time the parents have met a deaf person, parents may not be aware of all the ways they can raise strong, articulate and wonderful Deaf and Hard of Hearing children with Auslan. For decades, medical professionals have recommended that new parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children don’t use Auslan in order to focus on their speech fluency, which has led to high numbers of Deaf/HH children experiencing language deprivation.
We want to encourage everyone to be aware of Auslan and to enable all Deaf and Hard of Hearing children have an opportunity to grow up bilingually and biculturally with both Auslan and English and to be able to be part of the Deaf community.
What is Visual Vernacular?
Visual Vernacular is a unique physical theatre technique, with elements of poetry and mime, primarily performed by Deaf artists. This powerful story telling style combines strong movement, iconic Auslan signs, with gestures and facial expressions, to capture the world in all its visual complexity.
Cinematic effects are a key feature of performances, such as creating long shots or zoom, playing with fast or slow motion, and panoramic views. Role shifting is another way to play with storytelling. An artist can use movement to morph into different characters, or even objects, to help build a story. By combining these techniques, artists create a very visually exciting and accessible way to enhance storytelling.
Information from: https://www.extraordinarybodies.org.uk/visual-vernacular/
What is Signed English?
Developed in Australia in the early 1980s, Signed English is a contrived system of signs that follow the grammar and structure of the English language. Whilst some Auslan signs are used in Signed English, it is not a language in its own right; rather it is a visual representation of English.
Another way to express this is that Signed English is a manual form of English, following exactly the grammar and structure of English with each English word being signed. It was used in compulsory education in an effort to improve the English literacy levels of children with significant early-life deafness. In the current compulsory education system it is now used less; however, it was extensively used in Australia during the 1980s and 90s.
Information from: http://www.deafconnected.com.au/signed-english/
What is language deprivation?
Language deprivation is the term used for when a child does not have access to a naturally occurring language during their critical language-learning years. Language development may be severely delayed from the lack of language exposure during this period.
Although language deprivation is not unique to deaf babies— hearing babies in the NICU are at risk for language deprivation as well— the current system for educating parents on their deaf child fosters a biased approach that often leads to language deprivation.
Because language and cognition are so intertwined, when a child is deprived of a first language (L1) during their critical period, the resulting deficits include significant delays in cognitive and linguistic functions. For example, a child with language deprivation demonstrates deficits in executive functioning, the constellation of cognitive functions that occur in the frontal lobe of the brain.
This includes things like planning, organizing, problem solving, attention, and memory. Children with language deprivation also demonstrate difficulty with other cognitive abilities such as linear constructs like sequencing, concepts of time, and spatial organisation.
The deficits in language function seen in these children include difficulty understanding and using question forms, agrammatical syntax, and a vocabulary that is limited to concrete objects or things that have been directly experienced. These characteristics are also present in sign language if a child learns that language as an L1 outside of the critical period.
Fortunately, language deprivation in deaf children has a known cause and a cure. The cure is early and robust access to a signed language. Because signed languages are the only languages that are 100% accessible to a deaf child, we can be sure that the child’s brain is receiving language input.
Information from: https://therapytravelers.com/language-deprivation/