Last Friday was National ASL Day, a day to celebrate American Sign Language, and I had this post all set to go, but life is flying by at lightning speed here. We’re moving forward with so many medical appointments for Gigi (her hearing aids arrive in 48 hours!), getting her heart check, and doing all our one year checks on Tess’s heart. So far, it’s all going really well. I am so grateful for that.
We celebrate American Sign Language (ASL) in our house every day though. For Gigi, it opened up her world completely. Imagine, just for one moment, not being able to hear, and never being taught a way to express your wants, needs, hopes and fears. This is what our little girl faced during the first 3.5 years of her life. In some parts of the United States, this is considered abuse. It should be everywhere. Giving a child zero access to language is unacceptable.
The easiest language for Gigi to access is ASL. She started using it before we even left China. 15 weeks later, she understands 100% of what we sign to her when we phrase it age appropriately. Her vocabulary is increasing daily. We love watching this miracle unfold.
I get quite a few questions about ASL, about whether or not it’s okay for Gigi to be using it if we’re planning to “teach her English”, because this might “confuse” her. I get asked if this is a stepping-stone to her learning to speak. I get asked when we will get her hearing aids, or a Cochlear Implant, so that she can hear us. I get asked if she is diagnosed with a learning disability, is cognitively delayed, and even once, if she is “retarded.”
It is our goal for Gigi to be bilingual, to use ASL and to read English fluently. This won’t “confuse” her, the way it doesn’t “confuse” a child who speaks English at school but Spanish at home.
ASL isn’t a stepping-stone to anything. It is a language all on its own.
Being deaf doesn’t automatically come with learning disabilities. It doesn’t necessarily mean a child is cognitively delayed. Use of the word ‘retarded’ is absolutely unacceptable. It is antiquated and makes the user sound incredibly ignorant.
We encourage anyone and everyone we come into contact with to learn a little bit of ASL. Whether it’s to interact with Gigi or not, ASL is beautiful, has a rich history and there many benefits to learning it.
If you’re interested in learning ASL, I’m going to post our own little FullPlateFamily Guide to Resources For Learning ASL right here. I’m also going to include some interesting resources for learning about the history of ASL and some important info about Deaf culture, a culture we are proud Gigi is a part of.
This Ted Talk about the beauty of ASL is amazing, and it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in the history and culture of ASL.
If you have a preschool crowd and you’re looking for a jumping off point for all of you to learn, I love Signing Time. Lots of local libraries have copies of the DVDs. No need to shell out big money.
ASL Nook has some great kid friendly videos too!
Gigi uses this app on her iPad mini quite a bit. As the story is told, it signs to her as well. It’s a great bilingual introduction to ASL.
If you’re an adult and looking for a reputable online resource to learn ASL, both ASL 1 and 2 are available here.
Before Gigi joined our family, I took live ASL 1 and 2 at our local community college. Be sure to check there if you’re looking for the classroom experience. There are some questions you should ask before investing money in these types of classes. If the class is taught by a deaf instructor, this is awesome, and will make for a great experience. The very next best thing is if the instructor is a child of a deaf adult (CODA) or sibling of a deaf adult (SODA). Other people are perfectly capable of teaching, but part of taking these courses involves understanding deaf culture. The best way to do this is from those who lived it.
Once you’ve taken some introductory coursework, there are some great ways to chat for practice. I love using Glide. Want to chat with me? Email me and we can video message back and forth. Here’s an explanation of how video messaging enables the deaf community to ASL text.
This Facebook group has some great videos about deaf culture and ASL pop culture videos. This group will teach you everything from the sign for ‘Donald Trump’ to gestures and body language.
You can also check out our YouTube channel. Our kids will be posting videos of themselves signing all the phrases they find so helpful in communication.
–FullPlateMom, who would love it if more people could communicate with her sweet girl.