Archive for the ‘Sign Language’ Category

Now I Really Have Seen the Sweetest Thing Ever

August 31, 2006 @ 8:57 am | Filed under: , ,

A while back, when I was pregnant with Rilla, I wrote about lying next to Wonderboy at naptime and watching him chatter in sign language before he drifted off to sleep. "I don’t think I’ve ever in my life seen anything sweeter," I wrote, "than a toddler signing ‘love.’ "

Well, I was wrong. Because what that boy is doing now is even sweeter still. He is teaching his baby sister to sign. He’ll touch her forehead with his thumb, fingers pointing up: Daddy. Same sign on her chin: Mommy. He strokes her cheek in our special name-sign for Rose, then takes her through the rest of the family. Jane, Beanie, baby.

He forgets to name himself. He’s too busy taking her chubby hands in his and trying to get her to cross her arms over her chest. She belly-laughs, beaming at him. She may not be able to sign it, but she knows he is teaching her love.

Tell it to Me, Baby

June 27, 2006 @ 6:10 pm | Filed under: , , , , ,

Wonderboy has speech therapy today. It’s been a while (we’ve been on a break since Rilla was born in April) and I’m eager to hear what his therapist has to say. He’s made big strides in both speech and sign since the last time she saw him. Between this and his newfound ability to get up, he’s had quite an amazing couple of months.

Every now and then, though, I step back from my up-close-and-elated view of his accomplishments and recognize that as far as he has come, he still has a long way to go. When I wrote that post about the speech banana last week, I ended the first draft with “The speech banana? It doesn’t scare me” and later amended that to “The speech banana? We’ll get there one way or the other.” Even the revised version was nagging at me as not being quite what I meant, and I realized that it’s because of the difference between speech and comprehension, between expressive and receptive language skills.

In that post, in those sentences, I was talking about receptive language, what he hears, sees, and understands. His receptive language skills are excellent, given the degree of his hearing loss. He understands a great deal of what we say. Sort of. Yesterday I was unloading the dishwasher and I took out a pot.

“Pot!” I said, showing him.

“Ah!” he agreed—signing “hot.”

Um. Not quite, but I like that he was repeating what he thought he’d heard. He can’t hear the P, see, and I hadn’t signed along with my speech that time. He really needs the visual cues for comprehension.

Despite hitches like this, he really is doing beautifully as far as receptive language goes, gaining comprehension at a lightning rate. And that’s what I was thinking of when I said the speech banana, and where his range of hearing falls on the chart, doesn’t scare me. He may not hear all the sounds, even with hearing aids, but if he’s understanding as much as he is at age two, I really believe he’ll have total comprehension when he’s older.

His expressive language ability, however: that’s another ball of wax. Here again, I’m not worried about his being eventually able to express his thoughts in one way or another. He is already using a combination of sign and speech to communicate, and thanks to the gorgeous marvel that is ASL, he can tell me most of what a two-year-old wants to say. And then with verbal speech, he seems to be smitten. He loves to talk, spends much of the day practicing words. Without his signs to cue me, I probably wouldn’t be able to translate them: to know that “ah ah ee ah” is caterpillar and “eh-ah” is elephant.

“Watermelon,” I’ll say, signing it also.

“Ah ah eng!” he’ll shout triumphantly, believing that he is echoing me completely. His hand comes to his mouth, three fingers pointing up like a W, tapping his chin—”water”—and then he pokes the back of his hand with a finger, like tapping a melon. Watermelon. Ah-ah-eng. I gotcha.

So, yes, when it comes to his slow crawl toward verbal speech I am comfortable, but not complacent. I think we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us if he is going to manage some of these consonants that elude his ears. We play babbling games; I press his lips together and say “buh buh buh,” trying to help him catch the B. He laughs, touches my mouth, says, “Uh uh uh.” So far, that B is nowhere on his radar.

But oh how he loves to experiment with talking! His joy is infectious; you can’t help but grin.

“Amp Ha ain ow-hie!” he tells me, his flying fingers clueing me in to his meaning. Grandpa train outside. Yes, buddy, you and Grandpa saw a train on your walk, didn’t you? Two months ago. That ain made a big impression on this little boy.

Big impression on my heart, too.

Related posts:
Signing Time DVDs
More about Signing Time
Rilla Signs
Unsolicited Signing Time Commercial
Signing with Babies, My Favorite Topic

Learning American Sign Language

June 6, 2006 @ 6:25 pm | Filed under: , , ,

Amy asks,

Are you learning alongside your children and just signing as you can, or are you the “expert” in the family? How are you teaching yourself?

Actually, Jane is the family expert. We are all learning together, but she’s ahead of me. My downfall is fingerspelling—I can spell words quickly, but I can’t read fingerspelling to save my life!

We have used (are using) a number of different resources. The Signing Time DVDs are definitely our family favorites, and all of us—including Wonderboy—have learned dozens of practical, useful, everyday signs from those. A dear friend of mine gave us the four new volumes as a baby gift for Rilla. Such a great present!

I’ve heard there’s now a Signing Time show on PBS—anybody know if that’s correct?

Another video series we have learned from—and I get goosebumps over the fact that we actually went through this program long before Wonderboy was born, just because Jane and I both had an interest in learning ASL—is the Sign with Me program published by Boys’ Town. This video series (not available on DVD, unfortunately) is aimed at parents of deaf children, with the vocabulary consisting of words frequently used when talking to babies and toddlers. This made it a delight for then-seven-year-old Jane and four-year-old Rose, who enjoyed being able to sign important things like “yucky,” “sticky,” and “Cookie Monster” to their baby sister. After Wonderboy—and his diagnosis—came along, we watched the 3-volume series all over again. And somehow I think having gone through it once already, having watched deaf toddlers signing on the video, helped me take Wonderboy’s hard-of-hearing diagnosis in stride.

Last year Jane and I took a course online. Signing Online is geared for college students or older, but it worked out beautifully for us. Each lesson teaches conversational vocabulary through video clips. Again, we found the vocab extremely pertinent and functional: phrases like “What are you doing?” and “Of course!” really help you to converse in a natural manner. (There are a good many nouns, verbs, etc also.) It was a little pricey but we felt it was worth the expense. I think the full course is the equivalent of a semester at the university level.

However, there are some excellent free resources as well:

ASL Pro and ASL Browser are free online American Sign Language dictionaries with video demonstrations of each sign.

ASL University offers a free online tutorial with a combination of video clips and stills.

• I really have no excuse for my lousy fingerspelling skills—I could be honing them with this Fingerspelling Quiz.

• Finally, if your family has a deaf or hard of hearing member, you automatically qualify to use the Captioned Media Program’s free lending library of videos and DVDs—including a wide selection of ASL instructional materials. You can even view them via streaming video! Jane, Rose, Beanie, and I plan to begin a new series in the fall. (I just have to figure out which one.) CMP is funded by the Department of Education and has a library containing thousands of captioned movies, documentaries, and other resources. It’s an amazing program. Your tax dollars at work!

Related posts:
Signing Time DVDs
More about Signing Time
Rilla Signs
Unsolicited Signing Time Commercial
Signing with Babies, My Favorite Topic

This Week’s Five Signs

January 22, 2006 @ 11:03 am | Filed under: ,

I’ve moved the weekly “Five Words in ASL” posts to Sunday, when the after-Mass lull gives me a little chunk of time for looking up the links. This week’s signs are question words:






And a bonus, as long as we’re asking questions:


See video demonstrations of these signs here or here.

Comments are off

This Week’s Five Signs

January 11, 2006 @ 2:33 am | Filed under: ,

I have another great ASL website to recommend this week: ASL Pro. Like the ASL Browser, it offers free video clips demonstrating thousands of signs. There’s a special category for signs especially pertinent to little ones (“ASL for Babies”) as well as a separate dictionary of religious signs. There’s even have a quiz option so you can test yourself! Very cool.

Unfortunately, I cannot link directly to individual words in its dictionary (just as with the ASL Browser), so the links below will take you to still-photo-demonstrations of the signs. As always, I recommend looking them up in one of the video dictionaries in order to see the sign in motion.

OK, on to this week’s new signs:


Finish (or “all done”).



Help. *The illustration for this sign shows a closed fist on top of a flat palm. I learned it with the thumb of the fist pointing upward, as it is demonstrated on the ASL Browser. Also, this is a “directional” sign—while making the sign, your hands move in the direction the “help” goes—from me to you, for example, if I’m offering to help you; or from you to me, if I’m asking you to help me. The ASL Browser demos the basic sign (without direction), which uses a slight upward movement of the hands.

And a bonus: the sign for YOU is, not surprisingly, simply pointing your index finger at the person to whom you’re speaking. Which means you can now sign:

“Do you want more?” Sign: YOU WANT MORE, raising your eyebrows and leaning forward slightly to make it a question.


“You need help!” Sign: YOU NEED HELP

and lots of other simple sentences using last week’s words (yes, no, please, thank you, and hello).

Comments are off

Five Words

January 4, 2006 @ 4:08 am | Filed under: ,

You’ve heard me enthuse about the joys of American Sign Language before. Wonderboy’s hearing loss is our entire family’s gain. I’ve decided to share the wealth by adding a new feature to Bonny Glen: Learn ASL in five words a week.

Here’s a link to the wonderful ASL Browser, a site featuring video demonstrations of hundreds and hundreds of signs. Its setup won’t allow me to link directly to a specific word, but there’s an alphabetical listing for you to peruse.

Most of the signs at this site are demonstrated through a series of still photos instead of video, but I can link to individual words there. I recommend visiting the ASL Browser for a live-action demo of the words as well.

So, this week’s Five Words:




Thank you.

Hello. (This one’s at yet another site—the video’s a little choppy.)

And finally, a big thanks to the folks behind all these sites, whose hard work brings the beauty of ASL to the world, free for the taking!

It’s Almost Time…

November 22, 2005 @ 3:16 am | Filed under:

Signing Time, that is. I just got a notice that the next batch of videos/dvds is available for pre-order and should ship before Christmas. My kids have been antsy with anticipation for these for months! Woohoo!

Comments are off

It Must Be a Sign

July 18, 2005 @ 7:45 am | Filed under: , , ,

We had an explosion here last week. A language explosion—Wonderboy is suddenly bursting with new signs at the rate of three or four a day. It’s awesome. He has even put together his first sentence—and I warn you, it’s a heart-melter. Daddy love.

Jane’s baby book (the only one that has anything written in it—sorry, children numbers two, three, and four) contains dated lists of the words she was learning to speak. I collected them with the zeal a philatelist reserves for the rarest of stamps. I would have pressed each new word between tissue like a wildflower, if I could have. Witnessing a child’s determined quest for language is one for me of the best parts of motherhood.

And this time—oh, this time is the best yet. I’m sure my daughters will forgive my saying so, because they’re caught up in the spell too. Wonderboy’s hands shape meaning from air. Mommy, Daddy, baby, cracker, help, hungry, banana, more, sick, scared, let’s go, bye-bye, mine, hi, ball, uh-oh, jump, water, kiss, signing, bird, dog, please, finished…I’m sure I’m missing some. I can’t keep up.

Hand in hand (so to speak) with the emerging signs are new spoken words. Sure, so far they’re all variations on the same few sounds—eh eh (help), ah-ah (cracker), mah! mah! (more), MAH-meh (Amen)….We’re grateful for the ASL signs that help us translate his speech. More verbal speech will come. But he already speaks volumes with his grin and his fluttering hands.

This morning he seemed to be practicing all the words he knows, hands flying from one sign to another, talking to no one but himself, chuckling with satisfaction. It put me in mind of one of Rachel Coleman’s beautiful songs on the first Signing Time video.

Tell me that you love me,
Tell me that you’re thinking of me,
Tell me all about the things you’re thinking, both day and night.
Tell me that you’re happy
And you love it when we’re laughing,
Tell me more, oh tell me more,
Show me a sign….

I have raved about Signing Time here before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. It’s hard for me to imagine our lives without Signing Time. Rachel Coleman, the creator, and her daughter Leah, who is deaf, and Leah’s cousin Alex, who is hearing, are practically part of our family. “Rachel says” and “Leah says” are regular utterances around here. When Wonderboy watches the videos, he looks back and forth from me to Rachel, or from his sisters to the children, in awed delight. His hands soar through the air, mimicking his beloved Rachel. He understands the spoken words “Signing Time” even without his hearing aids in. (This is significant. He probably hears something like “eye-ee-eye,” but he sure knows what it means.)

Rachel’s songs have become my personal highway belt-it-out favorites (along with Marie Bellet and Bruce Springsteen), because she *gets it* so completely. Leah was a year old when her parents learned she was deaf. Rachel’s family’s love and occupation is music, and my hat is off to Rachel Coleman for finding a way to so beautifully combine her old life with her new one. Next to the joy she has brought my children, my favorite thing about Rachel Coleman is her honesty in lyrics. Her song, “The Good,” expresses my understanding of motherhood better than anything I’ve ever written: “Maybe we won’t find easy, but baby we’ve found the good.” And the inspiring “Shine” on Volume 6, written with both Rachel’s children in mind (her younger daughter, Lucy, has spina bifida and CP), speaks frankly of the pangs that sometimes hit the heart of the parent of a special-needs child:

Sometimes I see you stuck
For such a long time
A daily nothing new
Pretend I don’t mind
With lists of things you’ll never do
Until somehow you do
And you do – you do – you shine

The days and months and years,
they run together
Is it just one day? Or is this forever?
You’ve taught me in your lifetime
More than I’d learned in mine
And you do, you do, you shine

Shine Shine Shine Shine Shine
Shine your light on me
Shine Shine Shine Shine Shine
everyone will see
Shine Shine Shine Shine Shine
I’m so glad you are mine

Oh how Rachel nails it! I’m so glad he is mine. Yes, maybe we haven’t found easy, but baby, we’ve found the good. And so very good it is. All the signs say so.

Related posts:
More about Signing Time
Rilla Signs
Unsolicited Signing Time Commercial
Signing with Babies, My Favorite Topic