A little over three weeks ago, we found out that our youngest child was suffering from severe hearing loss, which is most likely permanent. After speaking with family and friends, my husband and I decided that we would learn sign language to better communicate with our child. We didn’t need to necessarily learn it with technology being as advanced as it is, but we decided we should learn it as a means of support for him and of the hearing-impaired community. We still don’t know whether hearing aids will be sufficient to help him hear to the best of his ability or whether cochlear implants would be a better fit, but we will start learning sign language as a family.
We have a 3-year-old that we taught basic signs to when he was younger, but really didn’t pursue it further as much as we should have as he grew. Faced with the news of our youngest being hearing-impaired, we have set out on a mission to learn sign-language to better communicate and help bridge the gap between the hearing-impaired community and the hearing community.
Here are some recommendations and tips I have that is better equipping us on our journey to learn sign-language as a family:
- Get Started Early: The sooner you start learning sign-language the better. It’s easier for child to grasp other languages when they’re younger, so don’t delay! Start teaching signs as soon as your little one arrives.
- Start Small: Start with a list of basic signs that you would like your baby to know. Start with 10-15 words and build upon it. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your family by trying to learn too much too quickly.
- Prioritize the Signs: If there are signs you feel are more important for your child and family to learn, start with them. You don’t want to overwhelm your family by throwing in signs that aren’t necessarily relevant at a certain time.
- YouTube: You can literally find thousands of sign-language tutorials and videos to help you and your family learn sign language. If you’re ever having difficulty learning a sign, YouTube it. More than likely, there will be a tutorial to help you learn it!
- Sign and Word Association: Make it a priority to teach the association between the word you are saying and the word you are signing. For example, if you want your baby to learn “milk”, say the word and sign the word. Use it in a sentence. The more repetitive you are of the word and sign, the easier it will be for your child and family to truly understand and grasp the sign.
- Start Slow: Start with only a handful of signs initially. As your child grows, incorporate more and more into the mix for your family to learn. For us, our child has severe hearing loss, so we’ll move a bit quicker.
It’s important to understand that consistency is key when teaching your baby and family sign language. Try to do the sign every time you say the word to reinforce practicing signing.
For our situation, we’re learning sign language because it could be potentially the best way to communicate with our son as he grows. If the hearing aid does work for him, his speech will likely not be delayed, but if the hearing aids do not work, we will pursue cochlear implants when he is a year old. If this is the case, then his speech could be delayed, which is another reason why learning sign language is important. Plus, if you learn sign language, you’re showing them support for their disability and the hearing-impaired/deaf community.