Teaching sign language to hearing children as a possible factor in cognitive enhancement

J Deaf Stud Deaf Educ. Spring 1998;3(2):135-42. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.deafed.a014343.


We describe an educational experience designed to teach Italian Sign Language (LIS) to a group of hearing children. The hypothesis underlying this experience was that learning a visual-gestural language such as LIS may improve children's attentional abilities, visual discrimination, and spatial memory. To examine this hypothesis, we conducted two studies. The first involved an educational experience lasting two years with a group of hearing children attending a Sign Language class from first to second grade. The Raven PM 47 TEST was administered at the beginning and at the end of each school year to children attending the LIS classes and to a control group of children enrolled in the same school but not exposed to LIS. The second study involved an educational experience in first grade. The Raven PM 47 and Corsi's block tapping tests were administered at the beginning and at the end of the school year to the children attending the LIS classes, to children enrolled in the same school but at tending an English class, and to children not exposed to a second language. We found that in both studies the LIS group performed better than the other groups. These results suggest that learning a sign language may lead to a cognitive advancement in hearing children.