Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

It’s common knowledge that a child’s first years are critical for language development.

But what if that child is deaf and has parents who don’t know sign language?

Chriz Dally, a board member of the Kansas Association of the Deaf, posed that scenario last month at a meeting of state officials and members of the National Council on Disability.

There was a time when a child born deaf had few choices. For more than a century, the only option for parents was to send their son or daughter away to a boarding school for the deaf. There, the children and the schools thrived in the shadows, embracing a distinct culture of silent communication.

Recent advances in medicine and technology are now reshaping what it means to be deaf in America. Children who could never hear a sound are now adults who can hear everything. That's having a dramatic impact on the nation's historic deaf schools as well as the lives of people.