Now that I’m toward the end of the quarter I’ve been hanging out on Facebook quite a bit. One of the groups that I subscribe to on there is Signing Families (https://www.facebook.com/pages/SIGNING-FAMILIES/108062343239 or they can also be found here www.SigningFamilies.com) anyhow one of the things that they do is a sign of the day- today’s sign happens to be one that I didn’t know it’s the sign for severe, profound, deep and/ or intense so I’m signing this and my two year old comes up and says, “Mommy what’s that?” I explained that it’s sign language which is talking with your hands like mommy does with AJ (his oldest brother who is profoundly deaf). He looked at the sign, watched me practice it again and then said, “Oh you mean like this”….and then signed more. I have made it a point to try to teach all my children at least the basics of sign after all their oldest brother is deaf and at some point they will need to communicate with him. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are expert signers but they all do a passable job.
For example – my 5 year old couldn’t learn his letters for anything! I tried just about everything. I bought door hangs, construction paper and foam letters so he’d have a fun exercise to do to help him learn his letters – that didn’t work. He’s got a dry erase board with all the letters, numbers and shapes on it – that didn’t work. I did copy the dots (then he wanted to write his own dot alphabet). I finally was about to give up and one day I finger spelled his name to him. It worked wonders! Now when I ask him how to spell his name he’s at least got all the right letters even if they aren’t in the right order and he finger spells as he’s spelling it out. Aside from being the least expensive way for him to learn how to spell his name and his alphabet something about having something to do with his hands that also corresponds to what he’s saying and doing is what’s working for him, it’s also made him more interested in learning more signs. Hey whatever works I’m not complaining!
Many hearing people don’t realize how wonderful sign language is – they try to avoid signs and deaf people like the plague. To this I say sign is a wonderful rich language. It’s so beautiful and complex but yet so simple at the same time. As far as avoiding deaf people – they are people too, no different from me and you. The only thing they can’t do is hear which is probably a blessing considering some of the nasty things I’ve heard hearing people say about the deaf. They don’t want your pity (there is nothing wrong with them) and they aren’t preforming monkeys communicating with their hands so you can stop and stare – they are PEOPLE and deserve to be treated as such. Show the same respect to them as you would like others to show to you. If you’re THAT curious about their conversation and what they’re saying get a pen and paper and ask. If nothing else ask, “Where can I learn sign?” That way you can have your own private conversations and see what it feels like to have people stop and stare at you.
Another thing to consider – not everyone that signs is deaf, some are hard of hearing, some just think it’s a beautiful language and use it fluently, some know deaf people and are talking to someone who is deaf. Assumptions get you nowhere. If you have a question ask, what’s the worse that will happen? The response will be in ASL, “Sorry I’m deaf.”?