Scientific Themes

Emerging up from across VL2’s different SFAs are synergistic scientific discoveries that advance 3 prevailing scientific constructs or themes. These discoveries and their overarching scientific themes have important implications for science at large as well as for VL2 translational efforts with the potential to impact both educational practice and policy.

Theme 1: The discovery that early sensory experience can change the brain's structures and related functions.

A persistent finding to emerge among multiple VL2 Center labs is that differences in early visual-sensory experiences can yield differences in the brain and related higher cognitive processes.  Crucially, increased visual sensory experience in the young deaf visual learner can alter the human brain in ways that, in turn, can afford stunningly higher cognitive advantages.

Theme 2: The discovery that timing in development, as in the Critical/Sensitive Period Hypothesis, plays an essential role in knowledge acquisition and mastery - especially as it impacts visual language acquisition, and, new here, bilingual language acquisition.

Cross-VL2 Center findings provide compelling evidence for a critical/sensitive period of development in which early exposure to bimodal bilingualism (ASL and English) is a key predictor of language, reading, and literacy successes and advantages in certain neuro-cognitive functions.

Theme 3: The discovery that ASL/visually-based phonology plays a facilitative role in the acquisition of reading in English.

Cross-VL2 Center findings have revolutionized our view of the role of "phonology" in early reading by discovering evidence that young visual learners utilize visually-based phonological knowledge - as instantiated through several possible pathways, including ASL Sign Phonology, Fingerspelling, and Graphemic Knowledge - which serves as an important intermediate level of processing, or a "wedge," between print and meaning that helps them as they learn to read.