What is language first?

Every deaf child has the right to learn a first language effortlessly from birth. This is the mission of Language First. Language must be the first intervention, over speech perception and listening skills. It is necessary for proper brain development.

Promoting spoken language over sign language is the underlying issue. A deaf child is entitled to both. It is their choice which one works best for them.

Language First serves as a resource for parents of deaf children and professionals in deaf education. Browse handouts, videos, and research to help further understanding of the importance of early and robust access to sign language for deaf children.


My name is Kimberly Sanzo and I am the founder of Language First. Language First was born after five years of watching deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children suffer from irreversible language and cognitive deficits that affected their lives in enormous ways. As a speech-language pathologist working with these children, I was floored by the blatant miseducation my students’ parents received from medical professionals.

It often takes parents and school systems years to realize that these deaf children were not succeeding in mainstream or oral programs. By the time I meet them, often upwards of 13 years old, they are significantly delayed in both cognitive and language functions, often exhibiting aggressive behaviors to communicate. Despite being immersed in American Sign Language and making rapid gains, these children often remain delayed, never able to make up for lost language-learning time. If they had had an accessible language from birth, all of this could have been avoided.

In my current work as a speech-language pathologist at a school for the deaf, I create therapy activities in both ASL and English that aim to reduce the effects of language deprivation. I am committed to educating parents and fellow professionals on the severe neurological effects of a late first language acquisition.

I received my B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Vermont and my M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Gallaudet University. I have given presentations on ASL-English bilingual therapy ideas and language deprivation in deaf children, and I put on an annual conference for speech-language pathologists who use American Sign Language (ASL). I am highly proficient in ASL and use it daily in my treatment. 




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