My 11 year old son has only become deaf over the last two years, the result of a neurological condition. He has good vocabulary, great speech and rounded communication skills following 10 years of growing up in the hearing world. His reception method is primarily speechreading, supported by some residual hearing. (His deafness is Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder – which for him particularly impacts speech perception).
Some professionals are recommending that he fully embraces Total Communication, becomes more integrated with Deaf peers and in particular learns British Sign Language. I am not sure. He has no experience of signing (other than basic alphabet), and has a preferred an oral/aural approach. I want to help him learn more about Deaf culture, but I’m keen that we take advantage of his 10 years of open communication to make sure that he doesn’t lose the ‘advantage’ he’s had.
Is anyone aware of any research on “late” presenting deafness in children, and the pluses and minuses of investing in BSL at this age.
It might be useful to separate out the two issues in this questions, that of diversity of language support and Deaf culture.
In terms of the language issue, the first thing to stress is that there are no ‘minuses’ of learning some BSL or Sign-Supported English (SSE) at any age. Nothing will be lost; there can only be gains if you opt for this type of environment. Your son may find BSL useful for learning or for socialising at some point (or a bit of both) or, more likely, find that SSE is a useful mediating tool for mixed deaf and hearing interactions and some support for listening and also literacy development (now or in the future). In either case, learning BSL and meeting and learning with other deaf children will be supportive and will not change his spoken language trajectory, only add a layer of support. Most children that he meets will probably also be using a mix of sign and spoken language for different purposes at different times and you will find in any TC setting that this flexibility is normal and expected and managed by the hearing and deaf adults.
With regard to the other question, about Deaf culture, entering into some sort of TC environment will immediately offer your son access to diverse deaf children and adults. In itself this will extend his understanding of deafness as he sees other ways of being and interacting in an environment where deaf and hearing children and adult rub along together. This is perhaps a more natural way to engage with Deaf community and culture which is entirely contextualised and nowhere near as overwhelming as seeing Deaf culture as a very separate land.
Given, as you say, the advantage that your son has had, I would suggest that keeping his communication options open would be linguistically and culturally positive and enriching if this would sit comfortably with family routines, practices and preferences.