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Early Childhood Education Services Not Doing Enough to Promote Sign Language

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A new report from the Human Rights Commission says that early childhood education services and schools need to do more to help teach New Zealand sign language.

The report made 15 recommendations after a year-long investigation into the use of sign language in New Zealand.

Among them is that early childhood education services and schools need more resources to help teachers introduce sign language into ECE services and classrooms.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson said more needed to be done to promote sign language which, despite being one of New Zealand’s official languages, was not visible enough.

Families were often not made aware of sign language as an option and it was not given enough resources within the education sector, Mr Gibson said.

There was also a lack of interpreters and not enough training for people working with deaf children, including in the education sector.

Some families talked to during the inquiry had reported being discouraged from learning sign language with their children.

Other recommendations in the report included more training in disability awareness and deaf culture, and training in sign language for early intervention staff. An expert advisory group on sign language and more promotion of the language were also recommended.

The Ministry of Social Development will form an advisory group over the next few months.

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