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This study investigates whether anomalies in the sign language of prelingually deaf schizophrenics can be elicited and described systematically.
Thirty schizophrenic and seven manic adults were recruited on the basis of a British Sign Language (BSL) version of the Present State Examination. Thirty-seven controls were matched for sex, age and ethnicity. Each participant became deaf before the age of two, and uses BSL as the primary means of communication.
Analysis reveals: (a) anomalies which are similar to those occurring in the spoken language of hearing schizophrenics; and (b) another series which is closely related to the life experience of deaf subjects and to the visuo-spatial medium itself.
There is evidence that formal communication disorder does occur in sign language. This has implications for more efficient diagnosis and management of deaf persons presenting to psychiatric services, as well as for the mechanisms of schizophrenic symptomatology itself.
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