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Petitto, Gallaudet President Cordano speak at USAID Literacy Day ​Forum

September 09, 2016

September 9, 2016: President Roberta Cordano and Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto represented Gallaudet University during a panel on “Technology for Literacy and Disability” as part of the Global Reading Network and USAID’s International Literacy Day forum on Friday, September 9, 2016, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.

International heads of state were present in the audience, as well as representatives from numerous governmental, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other organizations focusing on humanitarian, education, and literacy missions.

President Cordano spoke about “Technology and Innovation at Gallaudet University” and stressed the value of sign languages for supporting literacy in deaf and hard of hearing populations around the world.

Dr. Petitto, co-PI and science director of the NSF and Gallaudet Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2), followed President Cordano with a presentation about “Universals of Literacy and the Brain as Revealed Through the Eyes.”

She shared scientific findings from her decades of research, including studies conducted in her Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2) at Gallaudet, that sound phonology is not key to developing language and strong literacy skills and that signed and spoken languages are biologically equivalent in the brain. In fact, she told the audience, early exposure to the rhythmic temporal patterning at the heart of all language, spoken or signed, is what builds the foundation critical for literacy skills.

This understanding, Dr. Petitto told the audience, has enormous international implications for supporting the development of strong literacy and reading skills in deaf and hard of hearing children — as well as hearing children, including those with other types of disabilities.

Video of a related presentation is available here:

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