Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

I Learned American Sign Language For My Son

– I’m Ali, and this is my son, Rafael. I am hoping to learn
American Sign Language over the next 60 days. Yay! When Rafael was born, he
failed his newborn hearing screening at the hospital. At six weeks old, we
were given the diagnosis that he has profound
unilateral hearing loss in his right ear, which
means he is completely deaf in his right ear, and
that means there’s a lot of question marks. He does have normal
hearing in his left ear, but I’ve talked to parents
all over the country with children with
unilateral hearing loss, and their experiences are vastly different in terms of communication. Some kids do totally fine
with just one working ear. Some kids rely completely
on American Sign Language as their form of
communication, and some lie somewhere in between. When we got that first
diagnosis from the audiologist, the experience there was a little bit dry. You know, she sort of
gave us the diagnosis and then immediately tried to sell us a certain brand of hearing aid. She sorta presented it as
this is the only solution. She sent us to an ENT and we didn’t have a great experience there either. We felt sort of very lost after that. We decided to get a second opinion, so we went to Children’s Hospital, and we found an audiologist
who gave us the same diagnosis but talked to us more
about different options. We felt more listened to. And the very next day, I got a phone call from someone reaching out
to me, saying, you know, we received your son’s
diagnosis and we’re gonna put you in touch with a
group called ParentLinks, which is a community
for parents of children with hearing loss, so you can connect with other parents who are
going through the same thing. It’s been incredible
to be enveloped by this amazing community of parents and educators and people who are advocates
for children with hearing loss. That’s one of the reasons
why I’m really interested in learning ASL is just
to give him another tool, another way of communicating with him. I just wanna give him every
opportunity to succeed. I think he’s extraordinary. At the very beginning, I started taking some online ASL lessons, and
at first, it was very basic. It was just sort of like words. So after about a week
and a half of online, I’m learning a lot of vocabulary words. I was sick last week, so
I know that I was sick. The hard part for me right now, and the frustrating is like
putting it all together and trying to create sentences, because the grammar and
the sentence structure is very, very different. Every time I look at my
kid and I see that he knows the sign for more. More, you want more? Or I think about how, yes,
it might be difficult, but I wanna keep going and I wanna be able to help him communicate more. It was really hard learning online only, because I didn’t have anyone
to sort of like feedback with. And then I actually started
working with an ASL tutor, Loni. We just had our first
meeting and it was really intimidating at first. As soon as I saw her, I said, “Hi, I’m Ali, nice to meet you.” You know, and she was
happy that I knew that. But then, I just sort of forgot myself and started talking to her. I said, “We’re gonna go
to Kate’s desk right now “and get some paperwork,”
and she had to remind me, “I’m deaf,” but she made
me feel at ease right away, ’cause she could tell
that I was very nervous. I did a lot of writing things down today, because I was a little
overwhelmed, overwhelmed. I know that’s okay, sort
of, at the beginning, but I wanna be respectful of Loni and not sort of have to write
everything down all the time. There was really great,
because actually having one-on-one time to go back and
forth and practice my signs with an actual person
who knows the language, it was just like a whole
‘nother world of learning. So I’m gonna quiz myself
on some of these flashcards that Loni and I have been working on. I will not look, but I’ll show you. So this sign is daughter. (bell rings) So I’m about halfway through. One of the things I really
need to start working on now, too, is to actually have conversation. And that’s where it gets
a little bit tricky, because ASL is its own language. There’s two different things. There’s signed English, which is, “Do you want a banana or an apple?” But in ASL, that same
sentence would simply just be, “Apple, banana, which?” That’s a really rudimentary example, but a lot of things like
that are very tricky to sort of get the grammar and moving things around into sentences. This is Loni. She’s my tutor for ASL. It’s important that I have a tutor because part of the grammar
is your facial expressions, so it really helps to have another person. (bright music) One of the first things
I learned how to say is, “How do you say?” So I was trying my hardest
to be able to communicate only using sign. It’s been a little over 60
days since this whole endeavor started, and I’m feeling
really good about my progress. I feel like I’m finally starting to like put sentences together. I’m getting really excited to start actually speaking in ASL. (bright music) And now that I’ve had
sort of a taste for it, I’m really falling in
love with the language. I feel like this is something
that’s gonna bond us, and it’s going to make him understand that sort of no matter what he needs, he’ll always be able
to communicate with me. (bright music) – Hey, Unsolved is on a new channel. And now your part. – [Both] Subscribe here. – That was my part.

100 Replies to “I Learned American Sign Language For My Son”

  • There should be an USL (Universal Sign Language). Imagine the possibilities; a disability would turn into the capability of communicating all over the World with other "speakers".

  • I have a friend who only can hear in his right ear. Its pretty normal but you have to make sure your speaking closer to his right ear

  • As someone who is minoring in ASL I LOVE this!
    (minors don't matter after college, I'm aware, but if it's something I'm interested in and have the ability to use that as an advantage, why not!)

  • This is one of the most well done videos on this topic. 🙌🏼 buzzfeed I hope to see more of this. 🤟🏼

  • make sure that he is introduced to the Deaf Community in your area as well, so that when he is older he can share his own experience with them. Also, they'll be able to provide a different type of understanding that as a hearing parent you would not be able to give him.

  • How freaking precious can this little human be?! I cried through the video ahhh my heart!!

  • As a future audiologist, your story makes me incredibly happy. So many parents of deaf children are hearing and want their child to be hearing as well (which is fine, amplification is a wonderful option for those who suit it). There are so many options, no one worse or better than the other. It’s amazing that you embrace your sons deafness and recognize that it’s possible for him to be a part of both the hearing and deaf worlds. What’s even more amazing to me is that you as a parent are willing to teach yourself an entirely new language just for the purpose of communicating with your son. Truly a beautiful story and I wish you the best of luck in continuing to learn ASL.

  • LOVED how you explained the difference between SEE and ASL, it's something that so many people miss

  • I am someone who also grew up with unilateral hearing where I'm fully deaf in my left ear. My parents were always supportive in whatever I needed; giving me hearing aids as a child (which I quickly hated and didn't use after a month), making sure I was sitting on the side of the classroom that allowed me to hear the teacher better, and even in university, I wanted to take a language course (choosing between French and ASL) and my parents pushed me to learn ASL because of my hearing. They even went as far as strongly supporting me getting a cochlear implant where I eventually refused.

    It makes me very happy you were so quick willing to learn a complete new language for your son and being super supportive! Keep up the great work!

  • We were taught to sign letters in either late Elem. or Junior High, i don't remember exactly which, it's a little fuzzy. And I lived in a backwards thinking, poor parish. I believe that the alphabet should be taught at the least, and have classes available for those that wish to learn further. The people who are saying they don't need to are honestly being ignorant… Learning to sign letters is essentially the same as learning to write, you're just applying spoken language to another form, which will make life easier in some cases.

  • Neither my brother or I have a hearing problem but when we were little we would always use the sign for more when we wanted more to eat

  • Yes! This is a vital message. As an ASL interpreting student, I have seen several times unfortunately where parents can't communicate with their own children. Which means you'll never know how they feel, what they want, how their days went, etc. Later on in life those kids might resent their parents for ignoring them. Keep it up!

  • Good for you! More people need to know the importance of being taught by a Deaf teacher (NOT hearing).

  • I taught myself sign language, as well, and you're right. Having someone to practice with is ESSENTIAL! The books are a good start, but they aren't quite as clear as you need. Haven't done online, though.
    I'm part of a deaf and hard of hearing group, I have deaf and Deaf friends, and I am myself hard of hearing. There are video phones out there as well, so even if you aren't deaf, you can still talk to deaf friends on the phone. It can even be an app on your cell! I have a friend who I can barely understand without my device, because her voice is low, and she doesn't enunciate.
    Anyway, just wanted to say that yes, the system is flawed when it comes to deaf children. I'm so glad you found a supportive clinic and group, and he's going to do SPLENDID because of all that you're doing!!!

  • I have been very interested in learning ASL and I love this mother for doing this for her son

  • I have the same condition as him and it’s something different for everyone, just wish my mom learned sign language for me

  • Please everyone try to learn more about the spectrum of deafness and deaf culture in general. It’s a really amazing community! I am a CODA (child of deaf adult) and as I got older I wanted more and more of deaf culture because it is quite amazing! I love my identity and love learning more about my culture. No I’m not deaf or hard of hearing but I can be a part of the community. I love finding an immediate connection with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing or even someone who just knows the language. When my family goes out to a restaurant for example and when a waiter sees us signing and comes and just says, “Hello!” I can’t help but smile along with my family. As much as I know I should speak for deaf people I know for a fact that they just want to treated like humans and have a friendly conversation. So sorry for this long jumbled rant thing XD! Thank you so much for listening to what I said even if it didn’t make any sense <3 #nomorecraptions

  • i understand what you mean by sentence structure! i’ll be taking ASL 3 during August and it’s still a tough thing for me, you’ve definitely gotten better and im happy you’re giving your son ASL as an option because even fully deaf children are sometimes forced to learn speech and never learn ASL, thank you!

  • Does anyone know of a free online place to learn ASL!?
    I’ve always wanted to learn at least the basics but in my country … no one really knows about ASL for me to hire a tutor. I want to learn it because the island that I live on is a major tourist destination and every now and then some people come in speaking ASL and I can’t understand. I want them to feel comfortable.

  • I hope your son does well as he grows up. As someone who has had problems with their left ear for years, I can say that I’ve had bad experiences with ENTs as well. We had to go through seven different doctors until we finally got referred to a professional who could preform the surgery that I needed. For several years, I would constantly feel awful because my hearing loss caused me to say ”what” so many times in conversations (people would get frustrated and I would be too nervous to explain my condition, even my family getting fed up with me at points). I also could not submerge myself in water, so bathing or trying to go to a birthday that involves swimming was hard (I would usually just sit at the edge, and I think my ear is one of the reasons I am so uncomfortable in water), especially because in California, these things are common. Through surgeries and office procedures, though painful and anxiety inducing, I have actually retained more hearing than I would have without. Which I am grateful for. Don’t let your son’s hearing affect his quality of life, I’m sure he will grow up happy and loved.

  • Yess buzzfeed ! I don’t normally comment on your videos but this one felt a little close to home because I gave family who use sign as a primary form of communication and I always was intrigued! But more videos like this or others with more/other disabilities will hit more to home with other people. Keep up the good work 😁

  • I have a relative who is deaf and not many people in my family know much asl but I know some so it's fun cause we can talk and says often he wishes others would learn sign language he said if they new the basics it would be nice so I try to learn as much as possible

  • I’m so glad she just didn’t put him up for adoption because I am a home for deaf children that get put up for adoption

  • There are “three types” of Sign Language used here.

    SEE- Signed exact English. So you would sign every word! Including “an.”

    PSE- pidgin signed English. ASL signs with English grammar.

    ASL- ASL signs and ASL grammar.

  • I'm not sure if I'm born like this. but i can't hear with my left ear. my parents only noticed about it when i was 5 because i would always answer the phone with my right ear and i would almost always ignore anybody talking on my left side. I'm adapted to it already but it can be hard sometimes because u can't precisely locate where sounds come from

  • ugh i love this girl! thank you for using ASL my dad is deaf and i’ve been so incredibly thankful to learn this amazing language and i’m glad you were too instead of just going completely into the hearing aids

  • I learned Signed English nearly 40 yrs ago because I met a group of deaf people & wanted to communicate with them. (All of them, and many other deaf friends as well, have preferred SE to ASL, but I've also learned a lot of ASL.) I've never taken a sign language class of any kind but I'm entirely fluent in SE & quite comfortable in ASL. I've even taught advanced classes in it! This is all to say that you can do it too. Heck, you're doing fantastic already! All the best to both of you.

  • Hi! Here giving a simple opinion from my own experience. As a speech therapist/audiologist I always recommend my patient's parents to encourage the verbal communication because in these cases where it's a 50% lost of the entire hearing, if the functional ear is not stimulated frequently the hearing cells and the hearing nerve can get atrophieted with time. So do both, but don't offer only ASL as a single tool for communication, always put it together with words and sounds so he can associate both as a meaning. I'm sorry for my imperfect English.

  • i really want to learn asl & i’ve been looking for online classes to help me get started. does anyone have any suggestions of good websites?

  • I took ASL for two years in college and I absolutely fell in love with everything the culture is absolutely beautiful and I think it’s something so beautiful I recommend everyone to try to learn the language if you can 🤗

  • Not trying to be rude, but curious. How does someone who is deaf, teach sign language? Like, how can they give the feedback to someone if they don't know sign yet? I mean obviously other than writing it down.

  • “I took the necessary steps to make sure my child can navigate the world” it should be required for parents to learn to sign for their kids

  • I have completed online ASL classes but retention is difficult since it doesn't come up much day to day. I don't have anyone in my family who is deaf, I just thought it was interesting and decided to take classes. It's come up a few times and even with my minimal knowledge it is handy because at the very least, I can spell things.

  • I’m learning asl. I’m starting to loose my hearing and I also have some deaf friends who have helped me learn. I take an asl class at school and I’m so glad I chose asl over a language like French or Spanish because it’s going to be more useful.

  • i would love to learn ASL. i am completely deaf in my left ear. i do just fine and usually most people have no idea lmao, but it would still be such an awesome skill to have!

  • I like how they made this video as if she CHOSE to learn it to be an amazing person. No, sweetheart, you're learning it because you want to communicate properly with your son, aka you HAVE to.

  • If I was a head in the government I would make sign language to be taught as a mandatory subject in every school..

  • Asl is a really good tool for your child to learn even if he or she isn’t deaf. Baby’s can’t respond vocally, but can still request using simple signs like food, or more

  • 90% of deaf kids are born to hearing parents. Most hearing parents DO NOT learn ASL for their deaf child. Some even force cochlear implants and lipreading and speech therapy as a way to communicate to their child. It is incredibly sad. My husband was born deaf and his parents chose to learn ASL. He knows he's lucky. Hearing parents should look to Deaf professionals and learn ASL, become part of the Deaf community. I do hope Ali and her son socialize with Deaf kids and adults in the future. It's so important!

  • I'm trying to learn ASL and Its going… Ok. I can't do classes so I'm learning by binge watching Switched at Birth and Google images and the occasional YouTube video. I'm not very good with facial expressions. I'll be fluent eventually.

  • My mom learned ASL from me. When she found it out I went deaf at 6 months old. I and my mom were learning ASL together. My dad and my siblings don't know ASL.

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