Building a Signing Community
By: Rachel Coleman, co-creator of Signing Time!
It was my hope from the very beginning that Signing Time would become the “hook” to get many more people interested in American Sign Language (ASL). It appears to have worked! Every day people ask me, “We’re hooked on ASL, thanks to Signing Time – where do we go next?” “How can I increase my sign language skills?”
I love hearing this feedback from our Signing Time fans. I find that my response to these inquiries is always the same: go into your very own community and delve into the resources there. From my personal experience, the best way to learn any language is by immersion and interacting with native speakers… or in this case, native signers.
Over the years, I have compiled a great list of resources that have helped me and others with similar experiences, along the way, including:
Community Centers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Do you have a community center for the deaf near you? If so, this is an incredible resource. Look for ASL classes, bookstores and libraries as well as monthly or weekly community events. They often have deaf basketball games, plays, performances, workshops and monthly family activities.
Schools for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Contact your local school for the deaf. They may be able to direct you to activities, playgroups and services for your family (even if your child is not yet school-aged).
Signing Time Playgroups
When Leah was a toddler we started a playgroup open to anyone who signed or wanted to sign. One of our early intervention specialists volunteered to join us for an hour at the park, and the parents where able to learn ASL while the kids signed and played together. Look for or start a playgroup in your area. Visit our online parenting forums for help: www.signingtime.com/forums
Community Education ASL Classes
Take a peek into that Community Ed Catalog that shows up in your mailbox. You may find a local school near you is holding very affordable ASL classes.
College Level ASL Classes
Community Colleges, Junior Colleges and Universities are adding more ASL classes to their schedules.
Jr. High and High School ASL Classes
Do your secondary education schools have ASL classes? If so, the teachers may have resources for you as well. You may be able to volunteer in these classes or support them in their activities.
The services available for your family really depend on where you live. If your child has exceptional needs, most states provide early intervention services to children ages three and under. These services can include free ASL instruction and/or deaf mentors when appropriate.
Again, I am so excited to be a part of your lives and do what I can to foster a love for signing in your communities. I encourage all of you to find others in similar situations and establish a community where you can develop skills, conquer challenges, learn from each other, and most importantly, have fun in the process.