Bilingual Classes Supporting Families to Learn Sign Language Together
- kinderhaende e.V.
- Country of Implementation
- Western Europe
- Start Year
- First published
“The first deaf person I met was my son. I didn’t know how to communicate with him. kinderhände was a terrific support - I finally met professionals who answered my questions and eased my worries.” Eva Meißl, mother of a deaf son
In Austria, as in most countries, over 90 per cent of children who are deaf are born into hearing families, which can mean that a common family language is missing.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
Using a bilingual team of one person who is deaf and one who can hear, kinderhände offers bilingual classes in German and ÖGS to children aged six months to 14 years and their families. Through bilingual games, songs, and other tools, children and families learn ÖGS together. In 2017, kinderhände supported 165 children and their families over two school semesters. It also offers counselling and information to parents of deaf children who are learning about sign language for the first time. Both parents and children gain confidence from communicating through a shared language. Although the primary aim of kinderhände is to support communication in families where a child is deaf, there are other benefits as well. Sign language supports language development in children with cochlear implants, children from migrant backgrounds, and children whose parents are deaf. For the past three years, kinderhände has also offered courses to teachers and other staff to promote ÖGS in schools. The organization has its own publishing facility to produce bilingual learning materials such as song books and card games, and it provides an online platform so families can learn at home.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Though many of the learning materials were developed with initial funding from the Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research, the organization receives no ongoing state funding. Today, it is financed exclusively through donations and the sale of materials and course income. kinderhände’s services have extended from offering bilingual classes to being a centre for counselling, training, and information about ÖGS for families and schools; and consequently the demand for the organization to open branches in other parts of Austria is growing. The organizational structure, teaching curriculum, and clear philosophy are all ready to be replicated; and as a publisher, kinderhände is able to produce and adapt materials according to demand. When funding is available, the programme could also be implemented in other countries with other sign languages.