Should I learn to sign?
Many parents of deaf children ask this question, and are greeted with a host of answers from doctors, speech therapists and peers, both hearing and deaf.
This is my answer.
There is no down side to learning another language, especially a visual language. American Sign Language (or the sign language used in your region) will give you and your child a way to communicate with other deaf/hoh people you meet. Cultivating friendships with D/deaf adults can give you confidence that your child has a bright future. And it might provide a sense of belonging in the Deaf community.
(Full disclosure: Lei has only found a few deaf peers she can relate to, and most of them are oral, but I absolutely do not regret teaching her to sign!)
Those considerations aside, signing has surprising benefits every single day for your family.
If you can sign, you can still talk to your child when she is
- in the bath or swimming without her devices
- too sick to use her hearing devices
- on the other side of a window or crowded room
- in a noisy environment
- in a quiet environment where you don’t want to make noise
Or best of all: when your mouth is full!
If other members of your family learn to sign, this opens up their ability to communicate with your child, and hey! You can even sign with each other when you’re in a noisy restaurant, an airplane is passing overhead or you don’t want to let on that the real reason you are leaving your office Christmas party early is so you can go home and binge watch Scandal.
Signing is fun, convenient and helps keep communication flowing. I highly recommend it.
One great way to get started learning ASL is on Lifeprint. When Lei was a toddler I learned a lot of vocabulary by watching Signing Time with her. More recently the Signing Time videos have started to include ASL grammar and syntax instruction as well.
If you learned to sign, what is the most surprising benefit you have discovered?