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Education, History of Total Communication in

  • By: Thomas K. Holcomb
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

The push for Total Communication (TC) was a popular movement within the Deaf education system in the 1970s and 1980s that promoted a radical philosophical shift from oralism to the inclusion of signing in the classrooms and homes of young deaf children. Until that point, young deaf children were forbidden from using sign language under the guise that signing would prevent them from developing oral and English skills. As a philosophy, Total Communication embraces a child-centered approach including flexibility in communication modalities. Teachers and families were encouraged to use whatever communication modality that would be effective for that particular child in that particular situation. In this sense, the use of signing (both ASL and Signing Exact English), fingerspelling, spoken English, writing, drawing, or even acting ...

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