Let’s get serious for a minute.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 3 out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are born with detectable hearing loss. This amounts to approximately 200,000 children across the country with hearing loss. The more surprising statistic may be that more than 90% of these children are born to hearing parents.
For the 10% of deaf children born to deaf parents, there usually isn’t any issues with their developing the ability to communicate with their family and others. However, it is the 90% of deaf children that are born to hearing parents where the sad reality sets in. According to Bruce Rowe in his book A Concise Introduction to Linguistics, he explains that “until relatively recently, most hearing parents made little or no effort to learn ASL or any other signing system.” Even though things have gotten better in recent years, to this day there are many parents that don’t learn sign language for their deaf or non-verbal children. How are these children effected by that choice?
First and foremost, if a hearing parent puts off learning sign language, they will most likely lose the opportunity to develop a close relationship with their child. Where there is no communication, often times, there is little connection.
Secondly, they are hindering their children’s cognitive and language development. One recent study by Scholastic showed that on average, a child is exposed to about 30 million words by the time they start Kindergarten (Family and Community Engagement 2013 Research Compendium). Yes, you read that right … 30 million. If parents neglect to learn sign language for their child, you know how many words/signs they are exposed to prior to starting school? Zero.
Starting school with nearly zero exposure to language, the child will find themselves playing catch-up for the rest of their years in school. They will start Kindergarten trying to learn how to sign, how to read, and how to interact with other kids all at once, often times becoming overwhelmed in the process.
As an educational interpreter, I see this scenario play out over and over again. As a father, it absolutely breaks my heart seeing these kids struggle on a daily basis. The worst part is that this struggle follows them through the entirety of their educational careers.
Stop procrastinating. If you would like to have a real relationship with your child and give them a language they can use to learn and grow as a student, and later as an adult, the time is now to learn sign language. Not tomorrow, not someday, not later … now. Remember that it is never too early to start learning … but it can be too late.
Start learning. I get it, learning a new language is hard. It can be overwhelming just trying to figure out where to start. However, just start with the basics. Learn the alphabet, learn numbers, learn animals, learn commonly used words. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you start with, the important thing is that you start. In fact, the earlier you start learning the language, the better your child will be for it.
Teach them from infancy. I would actually encourage ALL PARENTS to learn a little bit of sign language. Why? Even if your child is hearing and will never experience hearing loss, learning sign language is extremely beneficial. Before you child can speak, they can sign. That means that if you teach them how to sign from infancy, they will be able to tell you what they want as early as 6 months old. This drastically reduces frustrations and temper tantrums (in both child and parent) and even helps learning to talk easier as well. Children that learn sign language often score higher in intelligence tests, understand more words, have larger vocabularies, and engage in more sophisticated play. They also are able to read at a much earlier age.
If your child is deaf: By learning and teaching your child sign language, you will not only spare them a lot of heart-ache by simply giving them a language to empower them to learn and grow as students, and later, as adults. … but by sharing a language, you will be able to have a much closer relationship with your child.
If you child is hearing: Learn and teach them sign language anyways. The benefits are huge! Who wouldn’t want to be able to communicate with their child as early as possible? As a bonus, it helps boost their cognitive and linguistic development! You are literally preparing your child to succeed now and later in life.
Although our daughter is hearing, we taught her how to sign from infancy and her language development is off the charts. We can tell you from first hand experience that many of the benefits that studies speak of are absolutely true.
So if you are a parent … whether your child is deaf, non-verbal, or hearing … what are you waiting for? Start learning sign language today!
ASL Basics on YouTube – Free Lessons
Follow us on Instagram – Daily Vocabulary
Tutoring Programs – One to One / Group Classes
Baby Signing Time https://amzn.to/2KFhwHR
Signing Time https://amzn.to/334r5Xv
Learn ASL: Complete Beginners Guide https://amzn.to/2QDvKwU
Baby Sign Language Made Easy https://amzn.to/2KD3vL1
ASL for Kids https://amzn.to/2pFYM3Z
ASL Dictionary https://amzn.to/334gziJ
Scholastic Family and Community Engagement 2013 Research Compendium (free download)
A Concise Introduction to Linguistics by Bruce M. Rowe and Diane P. Levine https://amzn.to/2QBVnhD
Quick Statistics about Hearing/Deaf – link