Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hearing Parents Can Learn ASL! How?

One of the criticism about ASL as Deaf babies' first language is not made possible because 95% come from hearing parents. Actually, it is possible as long as there are services available. Today, it is slowly growing especially that schools for the Deaf are providing support in giving parents the opportunity to learn ASL and having the mentors visiting their homes. If you study a bit more about the Sweden Model, it has turned into success for both CI and non-CI children. This is what Deaf Bilingual Coalition and other organizations are advocating for- by pushing for more ASL mentors and programs implemented in every local Early Intervention program.

Please allow me to borrow the passage from Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf and change some of the wordings to make it more fitting for United States:

"The goal is to allow families to take advantage of many services in the community which support the bilingual nurturance of their child's development. ASL classes should be made available at schools for the Deaf, Universities (unquote: there has been an increase of 400% offering ASL classes in U.S.) and through technology.

*A qualified Deaf ASL instructor may be hired by the family for personal instruction and paid by the federal government.

*When a family from another country immigrates to United States, English as a second language instruction classes are subsidized by the federal government for both children and adults. They have a right to have English language instruction available to them and to communicate in U.S. with depth and ease. Similarly, parents of a Deaf child whose most accessible language is ASL, have a right to communicate with depth and ease with their child. ASL classes ought to be subsidized for these families.

*Families can contact their local clubs to consider subsidizing ASL classes.

*Families can also hire a Deaf baby-sitter to provide a good language model for their child at a young age and to be a natural role model for the child and his/her family. Families must be sure to check out references as is true for any baby-sitting situation.

*Families are encouraged and welcome to participate in activities that include other Deaf children and Deaf adults. Examples are sports events, parties, ASL storytelling nights, summer camp and the many other Deaf community events.

* Families and residence are also key in providing a literature rich home environment. Access to much ASL Storytelling is critical and can be achieved by borrowing ASL storytelling videotapes from provincial resource services library, and perhaps your local library and purchasing ASL videotapes from Dawn Sign Press, Harris Company, Butte Publication and much more and by going frequently to Deaf community events."

The main problem is that there is a wall between parents of Deaf CI children and the Deaf community. Too often, hearing parents of Deaf children have not gotten to meet a Deaf professional and the community and that they are clueless about what the Deaf community is all about. I am not talking about meeting them at one time but frequently enough to understand the realm of "Deaf Life". I am not blaming the parents for not having these opportunities but the doctors, audiologists, and early interventionists who did not give them this kind of guidance are to be responsible.

As for hearing parents who sign to their Deaf children, I have seen similar resemblance to those who are from Deaf parents. I have seen it happening in some of my classes whose parents are strongly involved in their lives and sign with them. There are parents who have developed ASL fluently as long as there is service in their location that provides tremendous support. The problem today is that there is a lack of ASL therapy services but that will change someday since awareness is highly raised thanks to Deaf Bilingual Coalition, CAEBER, Shared Reading Project from Gallaudet University and people who cared.

Read more on Baby Signs FAQ's.


Shelly said...

Great blog, Barb!

Unfortunately, too many parents insist on the oral-only approach and believe in the outdated myths that ASL will hinder their children's language development when it is really the opposite. It is unfortunate.

Barb DiGi said...

Yes, how true, Shelly! That is why we need more people in the Deaf community getting more involved with parents who have Deaf babies/children to eradicate the myth that ASL hinders language development. I have already wrote about it in my blog.

Shel said...

Talking about the myth of ASL hindering language (and cognitive) development, I just read your and Shelly's comments on Rachel's blog. It is certainly exhausting banging your heads against the thick wall that AGBell has built around the Hearing parents' minds (those who believe that Oral or AVT methods is best anyway). It is unfortunate, indeed. In my teaching profession I have seen too many victims of the oral/AVT methods that failed them, and dumped them into the schools of the deaf. (This happens in Canada as well as in the USA.) The philosophy that "if all else fails, ASL will be a quick-fix, no problem." This goes against all we know about cognitive and language acquisition and development process. The best time for ASL acquisition is definitely the early years. The full linguistic features are acquired by the age of 6, be it signed or spoken language. After that, language development and refinement occurs. The window of opportunity closes at around 6 yrs old of age at the earliest, and at 12 at the latest, IF you're lucky.
It gets so frustrating, but it is heartening to see the DBC in action.

Shelley (with an e) ;-)

Shelly said...


I am a teacher of deaf children as well and I see the exact same thing as you did.

The funny thing is that if this occurred 15 years ago before I learned ASL, I would be agreeing with Rachel and all the other hearing parents cuz I had been brainwashed into thinking that the oral-only approach was the way to go and that deaf children who do not have any oral skills were to be pitied. Boy, was I ever wrong on that one! When I finally accepted my deafness and started learning ASL, it drastically changed my views. I used to blame deaf schools for deaf children's poor literacy skills but now, I see what really happens since I am a teacher.

Rachel and those parents have never experienced ASL or involvment with the Deaf community so they are relying on a very limited view set forth by AGBell's outdated philosophy.

Yes, I wanted to tear my hair out in Rachel's blog but I felt that the bridge first building block hasnt even been set on ground.

Barb DiGi said...

Wow, I am talking to you both who almost have the same name! Thanks for sharing your comments at Rachel's blog. Yes, it is exhausting to try to reason with these commenters so here you can express what ASL can do for Deaf children and their families. Check out this article called Critical Time for Learning All Languages Including Sign Language.

Barb DiGi said...

You know, at least we have tried to build bridges with Rachel and some people in her blog. We have and will continue to build bridges with other parents who are much more open-minded. Perhaps I should post a most open minded parent's letter someday (*chuckling*).

I am a teacher of the Deaf also and I know what you are talking about as we seem to have similar experience.

It is based on my observation that it matters when Deaf babies get to acquire a visual language, ASL, since birth. Right from the start. This plays a large role in language development. There are multiple research backing up my observation and you have said yours as well.


Shel said...

I have to admit it's a bit weird talking to someone with nearly the same name as me, and freaky to see someone else making comments on other people's blogs using my name yet I wasn't the one who made those comments (though I agree with them). For a while I questioned my sanity (I thought I wasn't raised as an oral child, yet it was out there in print) LOL.

Barb, I will be sure to read that link you put in your comment. You're an excellent source of information. I read several of the same research material you read during the last couple of years.

I may write that comment I put in Rachel's blog in my blog. It's about time I started blogging again. I was waiting till my video movie maker program works again. (I like using vlogs).

I look forward to more of your excellent vlogs and blogs.

I'm wiped out, so I'll bid you both a good night. Battering your head against AGBell walls can't be good for your health. I swear I have a headache LOL Can I sue AGBell for skull damage?


Anonymous said...

Let you know that Sweden do have school that do not use sign language in the classroom.

Is it best way to use language develop as evidence instead of use sweden's model as an example?

Anonymous said...

Let you know that Sweden do have school that do not use sign language in the classroom.

Is it best way to use language develop as evidence instead of use sweden's model as an example?

Barb DiGi said...

Sweden is well known for using bilingual model if you have read the book, Educating Deaf Children Bilingually by Mahshie.

For online links, you can go to First Language: Whose Choice Is It? and Role of Sign Language in Sweden.

Barb DiGi said...

Hey Shel! I know how you feel but at least we are able to share our points of view and now we get to rest well to kick off for the start of the week. Just keep it up to fight for what you believe in that is right for Deaf children.

David said...

Hi Barb,

Well written article!

I just wonder if you are aware that in Ontario, we have documented many complaints from parents of Deaf children against AVT groups. Strict AVT groups including CI specialists have indirectly forced many parents to sign agreement to ensure that their deaf children will not learn ASL. If they did, they would be kicked out of AVT programs for violating contract agreement. I also learn that many parents are afraid to send their children to ASL program funded by Infant Hearing Program that is also funding AVT programs. They have decided to hire private ASL teachers so that AVT groups cannot track down.

Technically parents are breaking AVT agreement for having their children learnt ASL. However, AVT has violated parents' rights for forcing them to make option with ONE CONDTION - NO ASL.

Ontario government does not have any power to enforce on that that is why one area AVT groups have taken advantage of. I am really sickened by that creepy strict AVT groups.

I have known some AVT groups have accepted culturally Deaf children. Some parents are sending their children to ASL program that is funded by IHP without any concern.

Strict AVT groups have forked tongue. They claim parents have their own options but at the same time they give them an ultimate choice (with one BIG CONDITION - NO ASL). That also sickens me.


Brian Riley said...


That's exactly the sort of thing that will cause the whole oral-only AVT trend to fizzle out. These AVT people are their own worst enemies.

DE said...

Barb- how do you do it?? How do you keep coming up with one excellent article after another, and without losing your cool?! You are a role model for us all!


deafutahhiker said...

First of all, I want you to continue posting your brilliant articles. It's very informative, and good to hear your side as well! Don't worry about building a bridge. We can only go so far. We can continue posting positive stories about postive Deaf individuals, so that people out there can see that we are not all failures like some people might perceive us to be. Continue to be a role model for us all! :-)

Shelly said...


The concept, "if all fails, there is always ASL" is also demeanding to the language itself.

It seems like the 3 of us see practically the same thing in our careers and we want it to be solved but until those AVT supporters open up their minds and meet us halfway, this problem of language deprivation will continue. It is unfortunate.

OCDAC said...

Both parents are too busy working 3-4 jobs almost 24/7 to make any time for learning ASL. That's why they send their deaf kids to the audiologists for communication development.

Anonymous said...

OCDAC 11:08am .... you are not make any sense at all by your search excuse. Yes there a way for time Parents and children sit together...... like parent reading a books to thier child by signing ASL before bed time duh!

We don't need your crap excuse!

Excuse me Barb I don't need OCDAC his acting weird excuse. haha ha.


Barb DiGi said...

OCDAC: Actually, I am glad you brought it up because the time committed is no different than those parents who involve their Deaf child in AVT. Parents should know that their children are their priority and make every effort to do their best to raise them anyway.

a deafie said...

The greatest irony about parents and AVT is that they are willing to spend hours and hours on working AVT with their deaf children, yet they are not willing to learn ASL!

I just finished reading a book written by a hearing father, it is titled, "Hearing Father, Deaf Daughter", it is a good book to read. This daughter is extremely lucky to have him as he was willing to learn ASL. A documentary should be made of this family and many others who are learning ASL as well as families who don't know ASL and have trouble communicating with their children so that we can make an impact and a strong statement.

By having debate back and forth, I believe we are wasting our energy, instead we should be focusing our energy in making ASL an attractive tool, make documentary films, and other things.

What do you think, Barb?

Barb DiGi said...

Hi David! Yes, I'm certainly aware of what is happening in Canada and I applaud you Canadians taking the stand. How ironic is that parents are to have choices but once enrolled in AVT program, their choices to have them interact with their Deaf peers and learn ASL are banned. They are being asked to make one choice and it shouldn't be that way. Also they use scare tactic by flashing flawed research documents stating that ASL hinders language development. Oh pulleaazzee!

Barb DiGi said...

Hi Brian, this is why it is crucial to continue to research on Deaf babies/children who acquire ASL as a first language and are being immersed in bilingual educational environment to break down the myth that the AVT group is contributing to parents' belief that ASL is B-A-D that it hinders language development.

Hey DE! Ahh, just figured it would be best to be more rationale than expressing by exposing the facts and ideas to make it from negative to positive.

Hi deafutahhiker, I am glad that you are finding my articles resourceful. Yes, we can only continue to try to build bridges by sharing positive messages and providing ideas how parents can be FULLY informed and receive support from the Deaf community. The dilemma today is that parents of Deaf babies receive incomplete informed choices and lack of contact with the Deaf community. Thank you!

Barb DiGi said...

Yes, Shelly, that is why it is important to keep up by sharing the positive aspects of ASL and expose the truth.

Davy, good point! There is a supported project offered by Gallaudet to train staff and parents to develop strategies on reading with Deaf children using ASL and reading the text. The mentors go to their home as it is much more convenient and sensible for them to spend quality time together as opposed to what Richard RoAHEM suggested by sending off their kids to the audiologists. ASL builds more bonding between parents and Deaf children.

Barb DiGi said...

Thanks for sharing the recommended book to read about how it is important for the daughter to have ASL in her life. I have heard of it but haven't read it but gonna add that on my to-do list.

As for the debate, sometimes it is necessary to be involved in order to educate and learn from each other but when one won't give in or make compromises, that is where the bridge building stops unfortunately. But that doesn't mean that we will stop but to continue to make more bridges with parents who are open minded.

K.L. said...

Hi Barb,
You are certainly on the right track. What we parents need is a single inclusive program that incorporates both ASL and verbal speech therapy. Something that offers free ASL classes, home visits and instruction on how to teach listening skills in the home environment. That would offer parents total support and affirmation.

When our daughter was little, we could find several ASL programs, but none of them had any verbal speech component. The SEE/TC program did. So did the AVT, but we wanted sign so we went with the SEE/TC.

Karen Mayes said...


I blogged once about oracy last year, which is part of Bi Bi approach, but due to insufficient information, it was quickly discarded as moot, having nothing to do with Bi Bi approach. As Barb knows, my son is an aural learner and I see there is a rising number of aural learners due to CIs. That is why I did not and do not have a problem with CI and with the parents making the decision.

However, one thing that escapes from hearing parents is the way the brains are wired. Yes, the brain is like a sponge from birth to 3 year old... yup I know. But even with CI, the deaf people do NEED to develop the visual skills... to have some degree of visual dependence, next to the varying degree of aural dependence.

So it makes sense to me that ASL or other sign languages should be added to AVT. That is why I favor deaf schools... that they should develop a program (oracy) for CI students so that we'd not lose them to the public school systems, etc. I am NOT saying set up oral classes ... nope... use ASL as the main classroom language in academic subjects and use oracy in the specials (like communication class, music class, you name it, ONLY for some students with aptitude for listening and speaking.) And develop partnerships with public/private schools to educate BOTH deaf and hearing people. Etc.

Yup, that would be a perfect world.

I wonder if it is because hearing people feel that deaf people are missing out something so we don't understand where hearing people are coming from... same way we feel that hearing people don't understand us.

I'd better shut up... I don't want to ramble on...

Shelly said...


I am not opposed to the idea of adding oracy to the Deaf schools just as you suggested. Isnt that what it is all about...building bridges between the two approaches so we can meet ALL deaf children's learning needs as opposed to some?

Whatever ideas you have to help build that bridge, I am all for it! :)

Karen Mayes said...

Ahhh... okay, I am copying and pasting my latest comment from Rachel's blog...


I know that ASL helps improve the aural skills… but for older students.

But are there any research that adding ASL to AVT have been shown some benefits to the babies from birth to 3 years old? If the links have been added, I am sorry, don’t you mind putting up the links again? I did go over and I did see that K.L. posted about it, but that is from her personal view. So are there any professional research?"

Barb DiGi said...

Since my comments didn't go through in Rachel's blogto respond to Ann C's concern about finding the time for parents learning ASL:

Parents don't have to be fluent in ASL right away since there are many parenting tools for communication through the use of ASL. See my blog:
(that's here)

Like Mark Drolz said, " No, you do not have to put in the 5-10 years it takes to become fluent in ASL--just 100 or so signs will be enough for your baby. Nonetheless, it's best if those signs come from an actual language. ASL has so much more to offer than any system of made-up baby signs.

First of all, if your baby sign language program incorporates ASL, you'll be on the same page as countless other parents and their babies. You'll be able to sign with them and they'll be able to sign with you. Second, this is a wonderful opportunity to expose your baby to another language and a culture. We all know that the younger you are, the easier it is for you to master more languages, musical instruments, and so on (there is indeed some truth to the old saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks"). This is an exciting, stimulating way to engage your baby's mind. Would you rather do so with a made-up set of baby signs, or an actual language, ASL?"

The Signing Time series teaches more than 75 signs and exposes you to over a hundred is an example of one of the communication tools.

Candy said...

I posted this over at Rachel's blog, since you decided it was best to continue over here, here's my question posted to you. You and I probably come from similar background and I do have no qualms about advocating that deaf babies having access to ASL..its not a problem at all..but I don't understand why we're advocating towards CI when what's done is done. It's pretty obvious that you can't include ASL with least not for these hearing parents. Might work for deaf parents.

Barb, you said: “It doesn’t make sense to advocate hearing babies to sign and to deny Deaf babies not to sign.” That’s true and I agree with it but what does it have to do with AVT? There are still many parents out there that have not implanted their child and are using the oral method - I can see where you might want to advocate towards these parents.

What you and I went through with speech therapy years ago is nothing like AVT at all. So, we shouldn’t be comparing that.

I agree that to expose ASL to babies is an excellent idea. But, parents who decide to implant their child should stick to practices that have been found to benefit C.I. to its fullest potential.

Are you insinuating that parents of C.I. Child should consider ASL in addition to AVT? Because if that is the case, it wouldn’t be AVT at all so…why bother to push this idea of incorporating ASL with AVT?

Candy said...

Do you have official research that shows AVT and ASL works together. It can't be testimonials. It has to be official studies. Are there anything out there?

K.L. said...

Adding signing to AVT is about the same as telling a vegitarian that to get more protein in the diet, just add meat. AVT is an oral only approach. Adding ASL means that it is no longer AVT. That doesn't mean that a dual approach is wrong. Just that you simply cannot add ASL to AVT. They don't mix. If you want a dual approach, you need to call it something else, and/or create your own approach.

Karen Mayes said...

k.l, yup, I was thinking of that. So it would be a new world... something that could be explored.

K.L. said...

Hi Karen,
Exactly. The CI requires fairly intense verbal therapy for a couple of years, but that doesn't mean it has to be done alone. I know for sure that it worked for us with SEE, and our daughter picked up both very easily. With ASL it might be a little more tricky since it would be harder to speak and sign at the same time, but it certainly could be (and has been) done.

Karen Mayes said...

k.l., then it is called Total Communication, not ASL... ASL is a complete different language. That is why I reqested about the timing and sharing of ASL and AVT... not together at the same time, but switching back and forth to ensure that the child picks English and ASL at a good pace...

K.L. said...

We now get to the sticky wicket. ASL and spoken English must alternate, and both need to get a lot of "air time" as it were. I know from my research that AVT is a full time philosophical approach. It is the way you approach language at all times. The minute you add ASL, it is no longer AVT, but an "oral approach". So the key, is how to fit in the needs of both ASL and spoken English so that each gets the attention it needs.

Karen Mayes said...

Yup... how can wefit in the needs of both ASL and spoken English to ensure the success of both languages without hindering both ASL and English is the question.

A bit frustrating when there appears to be insufficient professional (as Candy said, official) research, especially on the ages of 0 to 3 years old... that is the area I am more interested in.

Barb DiGi said...

Hi Candy and glad you found me here so that we can continue to understand more about the subject from Rachel's blog.

It is true that "AVT means a philosophy designed to be followed to achieve maximum use of hearing for learning. It does not use formalized visual communication systems such as cued speech or sign language in training children." But is it always true that AVT strictly omit the use of visual language or gesturing? Take a look at A blogger describes his or her experience when attending an AVT session. It is interesting to note that this blogger stated that "the therapist is actually doing what a natural signer would have done".

While I was in AVT-like training, no signs were used at all when going through speech and listening training. No signs were used at all in where I went to school. The only time I get to sign is at home and in the Deaf community. So what kind of therapy would you call that?

As for research showing that there is a better benefit for those who experience AVT and ASL, I have not yet seen it. However, I have seen that in Sweden, there are success for CI kids growing up receiving AVT-like training and Sweden Sign Language. According to DE who physically went to Sweden schools, he said that "ss a result, almost all of them pass their "HSEE" (high school exit exams). Almost all families sign. Almost all attend quad-lingual programs (Swedish Sign, Swedish, English, plus more langs.)!" So based on Sweden success with bilingual program for CI kids, we can say that having a combination of both works.

K.L. said...

Somewhere in the USA there has to be a program for birth-to-three that supports both ASL and verbal English. One that has been around long enough so that there are older kids who can be tested for both verbal language acquisition and ASL acquisition. If a successful program can be identified, it can be duplicated.

David said...

No that is not what we mean about adding ASL to AVT program or adding AVT to ASL. Deaf children use ASL and AVT program separately. We do not support an idea of mixing them into one communication method such as Total Communication, SEE, Signed ENglish...

Hope it helps


Shel said...

If there is one that encourages the use of ASL as a language by itself, and still provide AVT therapy (but not combine it like SIMCOM), perhaps it could be found in charter schools? If not, this speaks volumes of USA as a generally monolinguistic country officially. This is a tripping block in the struggle to get people to accept ASL as a language, and the fact that it benefits the Deaf as a language by itself, as well as increase the chances for improved English skills. If you look at the Europeans, there are untold numbers that are bilingual, trilingual, quadrilingual, and so on and on (like Barb said of the Swedes). Yet, in USA, the educational system is adamantly English only (to wit: NCLB). That works against efforts for bilingualism in any language (i.e. Spanish or ASL). People simply cannot wrap their heads around being fluent in two languages let alone one spoken and one signed. "There just isn't the time... blah, blah."

Of course this is nothing you don't already know. If the DBC can figure out a way to break through the monolingual mindset of many people, that would be half the battle.


Karen Mayes said...

Yup, Shel.

Jean Boucher has stated over and over again about USA's disadvantage...that it is too monolingual. We should look out to Europe and see how the hearing children learn languages and apply the European way of teaching languages to here in America.

I see that Rachel's posting has over 200 comments... and still going strong.

Good evening.

Candy said...

Thanks Barb. Until we actually see these actual studies, I'm not ever going to tell a parent of C.I. child what they should be doing or that they should consider ASL. Obviously parents like Melissa and others have done their homework.

The biggest need really, is to make sure every shocked parents are given every information at the onset to assist them in making a decision. It can't be one sided. That's why I just have a hard time understanding why DBC is rallying everywhre AGB or AVT is. Is it really productive? AGB does what it does best and that is to advocate for C.I. kids. If you actually think that AGB is actually out there trying to recruit every new parents of a deaf child, then DBC needs to find another approach. Think about it...let's treat DBC as a company and you want this the best way to go?

Anonymous said...

During the 1950's black people were not allowed to become professional.

Yes, Deaf teachers and paraprofessionals are here to stay and ASL is here to stay

Rachel's blog isn't allow me to comment in her blog

From ChrisH

Barb DiGi said...

About K.L.'s concern..."So the key, is how to fit in the needs of both ASL and spoken English so that each gets the attention it needs." It is a matter immersing the child in bilingual environment that is starting to offer in schools for the Deaf. Babies' brain is like a sponge and they can handle learning two languages that are used alternatively in the environment. Yes, like Karen said that Jean said, our country carries a strong monolingual sentiment making it harder to accept bilingual in our society.

K.L., I am not sure that there is a sufficient amount of data showing the performance of CI-ASL users. It is sad to see how AVT supporters have this mentality that ASL will interfere with speech and listening. How can it possibly be since we have piles of research showing the benefits of ASL and speech, ASL and language, ASL and written English. It is a huge contradiction. In addition, I have seen many the likes of me who are capable of listening and speaking intelligibly just like a CI user. We use hearing aids that allow us to hear very well and use ASL while growing up and we all ended up FINE! All of us went to college and hold a good job position and pay taxes.

Barb DiGi said...

David, yes, we are on the same page!

Shel, I believe it is rare to find CI users who have "AVT-ASL" experience. I remember there is a commenter known as Anna S. who said she uses ASL with her CI son who also gets training in speech and listening. Perhaps she will be the better person to ask to see if she knows more about it.

You know, it doesn't help that there are flawed research documents claiming that ASL will "screw up" Deaf children. It is becoming old school! We have research documents for years showing that ASL benefits speech and learning English more effectively, increased IQ and cognitive skills, and so on. This kind of scare tactic is used on parents especially from AVT/AG Bell and this is what DBC wants to stop by showing how ASL can be positive. Too often, the parents don't get to hear "the other side" as they were introduced to cochlear implant and AVT without being introduced to Deaf community, ASL users and bilingual programs with research documents.

K.L. said...

It is fairly easy for me to see how ASL families can add verbal speech for their CI kids. It is more difficult, I think, for hearing families to struggle with learning and implementing ASL at the same time they are doing everything possible to catch their CI child up in their verbal speech. The hearing families may be more successful with pidgeon ASL where they use the signs while they talk. Not nearly as complete, but better than no sign at all. I know it was much easier for me to sign when I could sign what I was speaking. I guess I'll find out how easily my daughter can switch gears when she takes ASL classes this summer.

Barb DiGi said...

Candy, you and I agree that parents are to be given every information but do we believe that they have been fully informed all along? My previous vlog research shows it is not happening. There are too many people in the profession who are clueless about bilingual program.

Studies show that in Deaf history and U.S. history, a visible, verbal group who opposes a law or policy tends to draw more attention that will lead to raising awareness since our side is not equally told to the public too long. Didn't you know that most of the rights became a law that came out from rallies, parades and speeches? It was never done before so we need to give it a try. So far it has been positive.

DBC is growing at a rapid rate that many more local chapters are interested to share with the media during workshops and local rallies and with hospital staff, early interventionists, etc.. We want to see the establishment of strong ASL mentorship programs. There is a lot more what DBC has been doing than people realize.

Shel said...

Karen, your comment just sparked an idea.

"We should look out to Europe and see how the hearing children learn languages and apply the European way of teaching languages to here in America."

Actually, we might not have to look THAT far away from our continent to find out how hearing children learn languages. Like Barb said, set up a bilingual environment.

I will explain: My husband and I are both Deaf. (My husband grew up oral and then later learned ASL. I grew up in a signing environment. ) We have 5 sons (10, 8, 7,4 and 4), all hearing, and they are growing up in a bilingual home (ASL and English). My husband and I only use ASL with the boys. They get English from TV, CDS, relatives, friend and their school. My second eldest son even entered a preschool for both Deaf and CODA children. The ASL instruction he received benefited him so well that he continues to use ASL grammar, classifiers etc. My eldest is in gifted program precisely because he was bilingual, along with some of his best friends from the neighbourhood who are bilingual themselves (Portuguese/English, French/English, Dutch/English, etc).

I know there are MANY CODAs who are fully bilingual in North America. We need to study how they grew up bilingual. They might be a good resource? Especially in the goal of breaking a dent in monolingualism? Dr. Bob Hoffmeister comes to mind. He’s a strong supporter of ASL, and bilingualism.

The point here is that children, regardless of whether they are hearing or deaf, need exposure, and plenty of it to different languages, the natural way.
In Europe, everyone learns more than two languages at school, at home, and everywhere they go. My brother-in-law and his family live in Czech Republic, and they are bilingual. They speak English at home, but speak Czech outside the home, and often inside the home. So, the point is that the system in Europe makes many languages accessible for the students to learn at school, at home and on the streets, the natural way without throwing stumbling blocks.

Now, do we add the information on how KODA kids benefit from a bilingual environment and that English DOES not necessarily detract from ASL acquisition, nor does ASL detract from spoken English acquisition as a kind of a back-door way to give our aching skulls a break from the THICK AGBell wall? Then we can say the same thing about Deaf children? Or will that muddy the waters?

Mind you, this is only an idea inspired by frustration by Rachel’s blog and the obstinate commenters.


Shelly said...

How can I get involved with the DBC?

Let me know! Many great points everyone!

Anonymous said...


I've had a very long day along with not so good news, so I will try to get back to your blog at a later time. Thanks--


CherylfromMA said...

HI all...wanted to say many many many thanks to Barb DiGi---you are a role model to all of us and of course others like John Egbert, Carl S, deafchip, Shel from Canada, Jack Barr, Aidan mack...(sorry i can't think who else, if i don't mention ur name, forgive me!) so you all are role models to all of us too!!! I'm so, so, so happy to see the DBC in ACTION!!! Everyone, let's work together!!! WE suffered too much--ENOUGH...
For Shel, im so glad you mentioned KODA!!! Perfect points about them...agree with u 100 percent We NEED to study how they grew up bilingual...I have 2 KODA girls ages 6 & 4 both are ASL fluently--only ASL in our home....VERY VERY important to study them....Again, all of you, thanks soooo much!! DBC rocks!!! :) \../,

Barb DiGi said...

K.L. Point taken but that's why it s so crucial to offer more support to parents to reinforce their ASL skills.

Shel, I have seen a research document somewhere indicating that CODAs outperform hearing children from hearing families. From my observation, I have seen plenty of CODAs doing extremely well in school and college.

Shelly, there are several ways to get involved with the DBC. Some started off as establishing a local chapter in their home area. DBC is in the process of developing local chapter guidelines and will give a presentation at the conference. Please go to for more details. A new website is now under construction and will be announced when it is ready. It has been the most exciting year to see the awakening of the Deaf community to be more involved in giving hearing parents more support and resources.

Ann C, sorry for what you are going through so hope all is well for you. Just come back to discuss whenever you can.

Cheryl, thank you! We all simply care about the welfare of Deaf babies and their future. We always need more data in bilingual studies.

To Anon from Fla: Just mistakenly deleted your comments so here it is:

Cochlear Implants and Sign Language: Putting It All Together
By Dr. Jane Fernandes, Provost, Gallaudet University

By Debra Nussbaum, Coordinator, Cochlear Implant Education Center


DATES: April 8 and 9, 2008
TIME: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Designed for teachers, school based speech-language pathologists and other habilitation specialists with students with cochlear implants in signing environment. This workshop is directed toward professionals working with early childhood through early elementary aged students.

DATES: April 10 and 11, 2008

TIME: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Designed for teachers, speech-language pathologists, and reading specialists interested in learning a system that utilizes a combination of tactile, kinesthetic, visual, and auditory feedback to assist in developing phonemic awareness, speech production, and reading skills with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Barb DiGi said...

To Anon who provided information about CI and Signs, do you have any research data showing the benefits of CI children using ASL?

Copied and pasted the information why CI kids still need to have signs:

Rationale/Beliefs Related to the Use of Sign Language for Implanted Children

About language:

* Early sign language use provides immediate exposure to visual language for deaf infants and toddlers to facilitate language and cognitive development at age-appropriate levels.

* Use of sign language promotes language development through a child’s strong sense, vision, while the sense of audition becomes functional and broad enough to shoulder the responsibility of facilitating spoken language.

* Children have a right to acquire language naturally and comfortably.

* Two languages are better than one; keep languages (ASL/English as a spoken language) consistent and ongoing—an additive rather than subtractive model.

* It is important for educators to understand the difference between speech and language development.

* Some implanted children (similar to some hard of hearing children) may be efficient oral communicators for social situations. However, sign language is a necessary support for critical or abstract thinking, problem solving, and assimilating new information in an academic environment.

* There doesn’t have to be an “either/or” decision between auditory and visual language; it is possible to effectively utilize both.

* Known research in brain development and critical years of language learning should be taken into consideration in communication planning.

* Many students with implants function similarly to hard of hearing students and demonstrate inconsistent outcomes related to spoken language development and use, underscoring the importance of and need for additional communication supports, including the use of sign language.

* Communication through sign language can facilitate a child’s ability to use auditory information.

About social-emotional development:

* Deaf role models from an early age are important to a child’s development of identity.

* Family involvement in learning sign language promotes involvement in the deaf community and the “demystification” of deafness.

* Sign language use has long-range implications for a child’s sense of being accepted by family members and for developing identity and self-esteem.

About educational programs:

* There should not be a mindset that a “one-size-fits-all” approach for children is necessary for each child with an implant.

* Communication choices and educational placement choices should be individualized and include family input.

* Ongoing assessment is critical to monitoring progress and programming/placement as modality preferences may change.

* There must be variety in educational placement recommendations regardless of individual professional beliefs and preferences.
* Communication approaches should be child-centered with the child providing the lead in demonstrating which language is most effective for communication and learning.

* Providing sufficient time for attention to spoken language development in a signing environment is critical for students with cochlear implants, and is possible to accomplish.

* For successful integration of implanted students into signing environments, there must be a philosophical and administrative commitment on the part of the educational setting.

Barb DiGi said...

You know, K.L., I find it interesting based on what I read titled "Cochlear Implants and Sign Language: Putting It All Together" it included AVT. See below:

Possible supports needed include:

* auditory and speech training to facilitate development of specific skills that may not emerge without focused attention—may include the use of Auditory Verbal Therapy.

Click here to see the source.

So it is not necessarily making an analogy by "telling a vegetarian that to get more protein in the diet, just add meat." or concluding that "Adding ASL means that it is no longer AVT."

So what would you make out of that since AVT is included on the same page that focuses on signing for CI children?

Karen Mayes said...

Cool, thanks for providing the link to the Clerc for the studies. I am glad to see an undercurrent in the DeafRead in bridging CI and ASL communities...and that there are more constructive dialogues going on.

Bill said...

Cool, that a lady in my sign class has someone from our local total communication program coming into her house once a week!

Considering GR was/is? known for it's Oral Communication programs....

Anonymous said...

To Anon who provided information about CI and Signs, do you have any research data showing the benefits of CI children using ASL?

I can't find information, so I am glad that you knew.