Making the Decision to Sign

Why Parents May Want to Learn to Sign

Signing´┐Żthat mysterious purveyor of elusive images. The hands gesticulate, the fingers dazzle. The body hunches, the head bounces. The eyes squint, the shoulders shrug. Little makes sense to you, but you are mesmerized by the swiftness and efficiency of the communication two people create with their hands. You may feel a tinge of envy, much as you do when you hear people speak a different language. Most of us would love to learn another language. But have you ever wanted to learn a signed language?

If your first encounter with signing came at a time when you did not have a deaf child, perhaps you were fascinated but nonchalant about visual language. You may have heard that signing is the backbone of many deaf children's education, but that was of little consequence to you. You may have had no real urge to learn to sign.

Then one day a deaf child came into your life. Suddenly, you were beset with questions for which no amount of schooling or parenting had prepared you. How did you feel then about signing? Did you simply walk into a local college and register for a sign class? Or was your previous fascination with signing pushed aside by fear? Now that you are the parent of a deaf child, you can no longer view signing as an abstraction. You will need to understand what it means for the education and well-being of your child.

Your deaf child forces you to confront difficult questions. Should you give your child the opportunity to learn to sign? If he learns to sign will he ever learn to speak? If she learns to sign, will she be isolated from the hearing world? In this book we will try to help you answer these questions by providing you essential information about signing. Ultimately, you will have to rely on your own feelings. Your decisions will need to be guided as much by intuition as by intellect.

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