Signing Time and Our Journey As a Special Needs Family

by Lisa T.

American Sign Language has been an invaluable blessing to my family. Our three-year-old daughter, June, has complex medical needs including a tracheostomy which prevents her from vocalizing. American Sign Language allows June to communicate with us and to acquire a rich, complete language during these vital early years of brain development. Signing Time enabled us to start learning ASL as a family and to share this language with others.

When June received a tracheostomy at 2 months old, doctors did not know if or when she would be able to vocalize. At that time, my husband, my son and I only knew one or two signs, and we began our mission to learn ASL as a family in order to be language models for June.

Every day we watched an episode of Signing Time. We practiced along with Signing Time CDs in the car and used flashcards at doctor appointments and hospital stays. June and her big brother Rowan learned quickly, and soon they were teaching signs to friends, family, and medical professionals everywhere we went. Doctors and therapists often marveled that June was ahead in her language development. Many people asked how we were learning ASL so they could learn, too, and we pointed them to Signing Time.

June signing girl when she was guessing the gender of her new sibling last year. She actually received a new baby brother!
June signing girl when she was guessing the gender of her new sibling last year. She actually received a new baby brother!

 

My family so enjoyed sharing Signing Time resources that I was inspired to become a Signing Time Academy Instructor. In that role, I could more readily and regularly share the gift of communication that ASL has been to our family. As an instructor, I held Baby Signing Time classes and also hosted community events to raise awareness of the benefits of learning ASL and the resources available to help. My children often helped at these events held at libraries, stores, schools, churches and medical facilities. We met many people learning ASL for different reasons, and we cherish the lasting connections that we made in the community during this time.

I am taking time off as an instructor currently as I homeschool our three kiddos, but I continue to benefit from the resources and connections my family found though our involvement with Signing Time. I remain passionate about sharing resources that may be helpful to other Signing Time families like the one linked below exploring a bilingual (ASL and English) approach to deaf education. Although June is not deaf, she is acquiring ASL and spoken English simultaneously during these important years of language development. So, deaf education resources like this one are very helpful to us in our dual-language homeschool journey.

We are grateful that Signing Time makes ASL instruction accessible and fun for all ages. It has enriched our family immensely, and we have had the privilege of seeing it do the same for many other people.

In a recent article on eparent.com¬†in titled “Considerations For A Bilingual Approach In The Education Of The Deaf Child” states:

It is evident that there are linguistic and educational benefits from learning American Sign Language and written/spoken English concurrently. Deaf children can acquire two languages simultaneously when adult language models follow language allocation strategies where the amount of exposure to a written/spoken language is increased as the child first acquires visual language competence. ASL can function as a first language that supports the learning of written/spoken English as a second language. On the whole, bilingual research has shown that fluency in a first language is a strong predictor of second language skill: competence in a second language is a function of proficiency in a first language.

American Sign Language is an accessible and complete visual language that plays to the strength of the child, vision; and, English, is important to the development of literacy in the educational arena. The deaf child should be offered a quality educational program that will prepare him/her to compete as an equal in the hearing world. Surely, the goal of any language program should be the give the deaf child the best of both worlds, the Deaf and the Hearing.