Modalities, Research and Personalized Programming

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Modalities Fact sheet (2017)

Simplified Placement and Modalities Summary (2019)

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Which Approach Should I Use With My Child Who is Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing?

For hundreds of years, parents of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have been faced with two exclusive choices for the education of their children: learning with sign language or learning through the use of spoken language and any residual hearing their child may have (historically called the “oral” approach).  Many families have felt torn about which language modality to provide for their child, and some have faced intense pressure to make permanent decisions prematurely.

At the Utah School for the Deaf, things are different.

Here at USD, parents can choose a personalized program using both American Sign Language (ASL) and English, an English-only program using listening and spoken language skills, or they can customize the educational experience for their child with all of the advantages of both programs.  Our highly specialized professionals are sensitive to the difficult decisions faced by parents, and in our schools the needs of the child always come first.  As the primary stakeholders in their children’s education, parents are encouraged to follow the lead of their children and to be flexible if their needs change over time.

How do we do this?  During the regular Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team meetings, our educators evaluate the progress, strengths, and weaknesses of each child with their parents.  Using this knowledge the IEP team determines appropriate goals, services, and placement for the child. Parents can send their child to a USDB school (Ogden, Salt Lake, Springville, or St. George) or they can choose to place them within their local school district – with or without the support of USD specialists.

USD then implements the IEP team recommendations for each student. We recognize that each child’s path is individualized and can change over time.  If at any time a current placement no longer meets the needs of the child, the parent can request a meeting to discuss other options.

This web page is intended to offer access to facts, research-driven data, and expertise from a variety of professionals in the field of deaf education to assist parents along this journey. 

Pictured: Mom Kimberly and infant Pearl share their personal success story. 

Please review the following links for more information:

USDB Programs

Outside Links

Relevant Research

Recommended First Reads for Parents

Recommendations for Language Planning for Young Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The Brain and Importance of Language Acquisition

The Brain is Not Biased to Language Modality

  • Bavelier, D., Newport, E., & Supalla, T. (2003). Children need natural languages, signed or spoken. The Dana Foundation. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from
  • Kovelman, I., Shalinsky, M. H., White, K. S., Schmitt, S. N., Berens, M. S., Paymer, N., et al. (2009). Dual language use in sign-speech bimodal bilinguals: fNIRS brain-imaging evidence. Brain & Language, 109, 112-123.
  • Krentz, U., & Corina, D. (2008). Preference for language in early infancy: The human language bias is not speech specific. Developmental Science, 11(1), 1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00652.x
  • Petitto, L. A., & Kovelman, I. (2003). The bilingual paradox: How signing-speaking bilingual children help us resolve bilingual issues and teach us about the brain’s mechanisms underlying all language acquisition. Learning Languages, 8, 5-18.
  • Walker, E. A., & Tomblin, J. B. (2014). The influence of communication mode on language development in children with cochlear implants. In M. M. Marschark, G. Tang, & H. Knoors, Bilingualism and bilingual deaf education (pp.134-149). New York: Oxford University Press. 

Natural, Interactive Language is Important for Shaping Brain Architecture and Pragmatic Language

Cochlear Implants and Signed and Spoken Language Development

Make the Best Use of Hearing Technology and Spoken Language