Friday, March 18, 2011

To Sign or Not to Sign

With a deaf child that has cochlear implants (especially one who got them less than three months after becoming deaf) there are several schools of thought about teaching them sign language. Since I love to talk to EVERYONE for opinions, and when I can't talk in person I Google lots. I have been able to boil these opinions down to two major groups.

Some people believe that even with the implants, a child will have a language gap or delay and sign language will fill in the gap. They also believe it will help them when the deaf child is in a crowd or a noisy area to "hear" what is going on-like a college lecture hall or even church. Finally, they believe that for the times he is not wearing his implants, like baths, at the beach or when he is just being a brat we can still communicate with him. My problem with this belief is one-I am not fluent in sign language and don't have time with h
omeschooling and therapies to take a college class and learn it right now. Also, we were in a noisy playground the other day and I said "Daniel" and he came running. And with things like FM systems (special microphones that amplify a speaker) Daniel will be able to hear the speaker. But I can see the benefit for "deaf time."

The other side is the audio/verbal therapy. They believe (and this includes Daniel's speech therapist) that sign language will be easier because the children don't have to work to hear and it is easier to sign more than learn to hear it and say it. This
could potentially cause the child to choose sign language over listening and speaking and it is not what we want for Daniel. Our therapist frequently says, when Daniel is running away from me at the beach, is he going to turn and look so you can sign to him? My problem is I like the idea of sign language. I have seen how learning little bits have helped us make Daniel's life easier the past year. So I've been struggling with which method I am going to follow.

Yesterday, I met a mom whose brother in law is deaf, so she has taught her children sign language and they use it in their daily life. She said she started learning little things, and quickly the little things turned into sentences. Here is my AHA moment! Instead of stressing about a philosophy we will continue doing little things that make our life easier. And if an opportunity comes along for us to learn more sign language without add
ing stress, we will take it. But speech will still be our top priority. I will leave you with my new favorite sign. STOP!

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!