University of Edinburgh

How do deaf children develop sign language?

Presented on Monday, 24th October 2016


This course described how deaf children learn sign language, with a detailed description of the important milestones in sign language acquisition. Parallels with spoken language acquisition were also discussed along with similarities and differences in the two modalities (sign and spoken language).

This course also explained the impact of late access to language on deaf children, again with parallels to cases of delayed language in hearing children. Other factors that influence sign language acquisition such as language disorders were also covered.


Participants said:

"Whole course was excellent."

"Delivered by a knowledgeable deaf person and could link to her own experience and research."

"My expectations of the different children I work with have been changed. New ideas for assessment of deaf children. Better understanding of how background affects different children I work with."

Target Audience

Teachers of the deaf, mainstream teachers, educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, support staff, and parents.


Kate Rowley, Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, Psychology and Language Sciences, Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London.


10.10 am Sign language acquisition - similarities/differences with spoken language

11 am Important milestones in language acquisition - how does phonology/morphology/syntax develop?

1.15 pm Effects of late language acquisition - parallels with spoken languages

2 pm Language disorders and how it affects language development

3.30 pm Course Summary and Evaluation