The American Sign Language Journey

I’m sitting in a restaurant in Northbrook as I type this.  I have just dropped off my daughter at the International Center for Deafness and the Arts (ICODA) and I’m passing the time as she practices for the upcoming Peter Pan play.  Three, sometimes, four times a week, we make the one hour trek from our home to the tiny theatre where she joins a group of deaf and hard of hearing kids of all ages.  Each and every time, she’s so excited to go and hang with her friends.

“Hey Mom, look at this neat ASL phrase I learned today!” she signs. 

She’s picking up the lingo, learning the slang and gaining more and more confidence each day as she converses with the kids.  This is from the kid who spoke entire sentences at the age of fourteen months and wanted nothing to do with ASL when her hearing suddenly went south at the age of four.  She’s the hard of hearing kid who spends time yakking on the phone with her best friend from Texas, the one who is quick to raise her hand at school and jump into a hot debate– the child that I thought would never embrace sign.  

And here she is, surrounded by a group of kids who are signing faster than the speed of light and she’s not shying away– she’s right in there asking them to repeat.  Sign it again, she signs, when the rapid-fire signing “goes over her head.”

With a start, I realize she’s applying the same advocating technique that we’ve taught her over and over throughout the years– when communication doesn’t happen, change it so that it does.  Ask for a repeat, ask for a re-phrase, ask for it in a way that gets the message understood.  She’s soaking up the ASL and incorporating it– and loving it.

There was a time she hated it.

“Mom, don’t sign.  I don’t need it.  I can hear you just fine.”

It has been fun watching the metamorphasis over the years, how the diverse communication modes have weaved in and out of her life and how she’s grown and changed.  I love how she’s been able to find her niche with a variety of friends– hearing, hard of hearing, deaf/Deaf. 

I’m often reminded of something that I first heard from Janet DesGeorges and Leeanne Seaver about the parenting journey when it comes to making choices for our kids:

Nothing is set in stone.

Sometimes when we set out on a certain path, we think we’re heading down that path for a long time.  And sometimes our kids lead us down a different path or change the direction in our sails. 

Sometimes the time is just right for a new direction and as parents, we just have to give our kids the opportunity to explore all the different paths.

13 replies
  1. Julie @ Wearing Mascara
    Julie @ Wearing Mascara says:

    This is a great post. I completely agree and while I’m not a parent, I advise parents and educators everyday about this exact topic. When people are picking a direction for their kids, I always tell them there may be another way. “She may not be a signer… or a talker… she may be both… etc etc.” It’s so important and this is a very real way of explaining it. 🙂

  2. JCal
    JCal says:

    Love this post and I am so proud of Lauren. She’s always true to herself and I think she’s found her forte in acting.

  3. Karen Mayes
    Karen Mayes says:

    That’s cool. I can honestly say that it applies somewhat to my kids who are deaf, yes, but are mainstreamed. When attending deaf schools, their signing was not very clear… very fast and a bit sloppy. Then mainstreaming… with EXCELLENT ASL interpreters, behold… their signing improved and became more clear. My daughter shares with me the ASL idioms that her terp uses on her, giggling.

    We all have our own personal quirks with our signing ;o)

  4. DeafMom
    DeafMom says:

    Julie, good perspective! There are times when a communication method doesn’t fit the child– children don’t fail a method– the method fails the child.

  5. Leah Lefler
    Leah Lefler says:

    I love this post. We’ve modified our path a few times. We started off with SEE2 and spoken English. Then decided that SEE2 was too cumbersome and went to a CASE type of system. Then Nolan decided he wanted nothing to do with signing (another one of those early-verbal type kiddos, very auditory in learning style), so we backed off and focused on what he was interested in. Now he is showing a lot of interest in signing again, so we’re increasing our use again. Unfortunately, now we’re behind him in the learning curve! Thank goodness for Signing Time (g)!

  6. Robert Hruzek
    Robert Hruzek says:

    One of the greatest things we can re-learn from our children (if we take the time to learn it, that is) is that change can actually be fun! By the time we turn into adults, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of avoiding all change, simply because it’s “uncomfortable” or “hard”.

    But look how much joy and fun your daughter has discovered by simply changing an attitude! What an inspiration!

    A tip o’ the hat to her – and you, Karen!

  7. Kym
    Kym says:

    How wonderful for you and your daughter.
    ASL will open a whole new world for her and learning it with her peers at her own pace is great.

    Good job.

  8. Joey
    Joey says:

    I’m so proud and I don’t even know you guys!
    I’m trying myself to raise a self-advocating kid. So far it’s going pretty well, she’ll tell anyone that they need to talk louder when she’s not wearing her “magic ears”.
    I loved the part about our kids changing our path – I think that’s their whole point in existing!

  9. ZenMonkey
    ZenMonkey says:

    Lovely post. It definitely supports my feeling that deaf kids should be given a range of communication methods until they’re old enough to make their own choices. Your experience with your daughter is a really beautiful example of that.

Comments are closed.