February 18, 2013

For Non-Signing Parents of Signing Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

This is for non-signing parents learning and using sign language with their signing deaf/hh child.

It is a challenge for most adults to quickly become fluent in a foreign language. I can understand why many non-signing parents would be hesitant about learning and using sign language with their deaf or hard of hearing child who seems to prefer to communicate in sign language. Many parents may want to learn, but will often get discouraged by the idea that it will be hard or that they will never be fluent in it or be fluent fast enough. To discourage them even more, they may be told by professionals that sign language will hinder their child's spoken language development. They may worry about not being able to provide their child full access to fluent language as they struggle with providing a visual language in a natural manner for the first several years of their child's life.

I would tell these parents not to worry about becoming fluent in ASL or whatever sign language your child is currently using. In my opinion, it is better to have some form of communication at home that makes the most sense to the child, whether it will be fluent or not. It is very important for the child to be able to communicate with his or her family at home while he or she learns to understand, read, or use spoken language.

If your child prefers sign language and you are not good at signing, don't stress. Realize that it won't be perfect. It is better than having a child come home to no means of communication. Do not be afraid to talk to them as you would to a hearing child. Read to them. Ask them questions. Play with them. Sing to them. Ask them to help you with the laundry. Teach them how to bake cookies or build a bird house. Include them in the conversations at the dinner table using spoken language and sign language. The more you communicate and interact with your child, the easier it will get.

I think most parents are capable of learning basic sign phrases such as, "I love you." "What do you want?" "Would you like a snack?" "How are you?" "What's wrong?" "Are you tired?" "You need to go to the bathroom?" "Are you sick?" "Are you thirsty?" All of these phrases require only one to two signs most people can easily learn. You may never be fluent in ASL or other signed languages, but at least you will be able to understand your child's basic needs and wants, which will let them be able to relax and feel comfortable and loved at home, knowing that you are trying.

It is best to focus on communicating and interacting with your child as much as you can than to stress about becoming fluent in sign language, that is if signing is their preferred mode of communication.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it civil.