Sign Language and Deaf Education
A new tradition
Deaf education in Croatia still continues to use a predominantly auditory-speech approach, spoken Croatian only, and simultaneous communication (SC). In the last few years a few changes in tradition have been made: most importantly, educational interpreting is now available in high schools and at the university level. Given the lack of bilingual deaf education and early sign language exposure, deaf children make very slow progress in literacy, compared with deaf children of deaf parents. Benefits of early sign language acquisition can be seen in deaf children of deaf parents not only in better social adaptation skills, but also in their better academic achievement compared with other deaf children. The cultural approach to deaf education views sign language as the most natural linguistic form of deaf people, and a powerful means of communication for all purposes and in all circumstances. Here, we discuss case studies of Sweden and Denmark, with 20 years of tradition in deaf bilingual education; the Netherlands, with about 10 years of deaf bilingual education; and Spain, where deaf bilingual education is in the process of implementation. These examples (Sweden, Spain, Netherlands) demonstrate the processes of policy changes and the shift to deaf education that is aimed at taking care of the needs of deaf children and their families, as well as implementing the human rights protections for linguistic minorities.