Linda G. Hill

Life in progress

Communication – #AtoZ Challenge

43 Comments

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex.

When I discovered Alex was Deaf, I knew I would have to learn Sign Language. However, there was no point starting a formal education too early. I knew from experience that if you don’t use a language, you lose it pretty quickly. So in lieu of classes, I devised a few logical signs of my own. I think the first I ever taught him, before he came home from the hospital at the age of eight months, was to let him know when I was leaving and coming right back. I simply held my index finger up as I walked out the door. When I was leaving for the evening, I waved goodbye so he would know the difference. It didn’t take long before he needed to know why people were exiting his room; he began to cry whenever a nurse left, even for a moment. “Just a second” was the first of many I would have to teach the nursing staff over the years. I found the signs for “mom” and “dad,” and a few others so I could add to both my vocabulary and that of the people caring for him in the hospital when I couldn’t be there myself.

Even now, fifteen years later, it’s necessary to teach the nursing staff how to sign whenever he stays in the hospital. And not just one nurse, because signing is usually the last thing they have time to relate to each other when they change shifts. They normally have 15 minutes to go through the medical history and changes of all the patients on the floor. If Alex is admitted for a few days, there’s a fair bit of staff rotation. When a hospital is close to a border, such as the Ontario/Quebec border in Canada, the staff are expected to be bilingual, yet there is no provision for teaching hospital staff Sign Language. At the very least, it should be mandatory to have a reference book on every floor. I had to buy one of my own and lend it, always hoping it would come back home after Alex’s stay.

For a child without diverse medical needs, this would only be a problem occasionally. For us, it’s an ongoing concern. I honestly don’t understand why it’s not mandatory to teach Sign in schools. If you follow my A to Z, you may agree with me by the time the end of April gets here that they should.

Author: LindaGHill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

43 thoughts on “Communication – #AtoZ Challenge

  1. It must be a frightening thing, to end up in a place like the hospital and not be able to communicate with the staff, for him and for you as his parent.
    When my brother was in hospital last December I worried for him, when he wasn’t able to talk at all and then when he had such communication issues at first.
    Nurses would look at him and automatically jump to conclusions about him, his blindness, which were a detriment to him. It made me never want to leave his bedside.

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    • I’m so glad I CAN hear, and I’m able to give instructions. Alex is a very trusting soul, so he doesn’t have many issues. Except when he wants something. Then he can go quite crazy. I’ve had a few phone calls from distraught nurses over the years.

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  2. Very interesting posts! I think I was fortunate when I was young that one of my favorite teachers was fluent in ASL (in fact she was an interpreter) and she taught our class some basics. I don’t remember much, but I still remember the letters so in a worst-case scenario I could spell everything to someone who spoke ASL. Frustrating but it could work I suppose. I also know “please” and “thank you” and a couple other words. As you know, I love languages, and I find ASL to be a beautiful one. There’s a lady in my church (who is also a teacher!) who knows it and she always signs the hymns to herself while we are singing. I love that. I agree that every teacher should know some. I have an education degree, and I can tell you that (at least in the late 90’s) it wasn’t part of the curriculum for getting a teaching degree.

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  3. I’m a little ashamed to say, but the idea of teaching Sign in schools has never occurred to me and apparently I’m not alone. You can choose a several languages to learn as a course, but never once did I see Signing as one of them. That is very unfortunate, as there are so many people in the world who depend on it.

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  4. Pingback: My Article Read (4-4-2016) – My Daily Musing

  5. I don’t need to wait until the End of April to agree. I think that is one language I will get onto after I got my French going :-).

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  6. Rhonda says that Audrey could sign before she could talk (Rhonda worked in a care home and knew it herself, to communicate with residents) and Audrey built up quite a large vocabulary with it, long before she vocalised anywhere near as much. She still remembers a fair bit of it now, over five years later, which just goes to show how it can be taught to people who have yet to learn how to speak.
    I had a girlfriend who worked at a deaf home when I was a teenager and she taught me a lot of phrases, along with the basic alphabet and I can still just about remember some of it now too.

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  7. Here South African Sign Language has now been recognised as an official language, making it our 12th. Still, not enough people know how to sign, and whether or not to learn it remains controversial. At a recent conference, an academic working with deaf infants and children talked about this at length. She was adamant that while it was a family decision, Sign should be encouraged. We have a close friend whose father is deaf and has been all his life and is the product of a school for the deaf. He refused to let his wife learn Sign; the children and grandchildren don’t sign. I’ve never seen him Sign. He lipreads and speaks, but unless you know him, he’s hard to follow. Now he is older and not-so-well, the burden on his daughter is growing. Personally, and it’s a comment rather than a judgement, I think not signing does everyone a disservice. Thank you for this, Linda.

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  8. I am thoroughly enjoying this journey with you. Do you get “Dancing With the Stars” up there? This season there is a totally deaf young man named Kyle (he was also on “America’s Next Top Model”) competing. For a totally deaf man, he is doing remarkably well, even garnering the top score this week. Of course, the studio crew and dancing pros are getting lessons in sign language, too. I was watching the interpreter at one point during the judges comments for Kyle’s dance, and I totally understood then what you meant about the importance of body language in signing.

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  9. I think it should be mandatory. I would love my kids to learn it. As we homeschool: Is there something online you can recommend?

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  10. When I volunteered at the Londin Olympics we were all encouraged to sign hello and how are you and our names. Sadly lack if use has meant they have gone but you are right they are useful skills

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  11. It’s a very interesting question. I guess the answer would be that deaf is a minority. School tends to focus on the majority, albeit unfairly. Everyone should have the right to be heard and understood. Thanks for another great post.

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  12. Write on – this is interesting.

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  13. I agree with you, sign language is on my list of things I wish I could do. I wish it was taught in school, I certainly never found a use for the French I had to learn, yet had I know sign language or Makaton I could converse with my friends little girls who has Downs. She is just the cutest little signer I have ever seen 🙂 x

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    • I just heard of Makaton today for the first time. Or at least it’s the first time I’ve heard it named. But yes, unless you live in an area or visit one that’s densely populated with people who speak a different language, you’re probably not going to use it. Deaf people are everywhere though.

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  14. I am so glad you picked this theme for this month. ❤

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    • Thank you, my dear. Glad you’re getting something out of it. 🙂

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    • I totally agree. Thanks Linda 🙂 and this is the first time I knew that the sign languages differ between regions. I once tried to learn the ASL on my own. Sadly, couldn’t do it after a week because of work pressure.

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      • The thing is too, if you don’t learn it with a friend you tend to lose it anyway. Maybe you can convince someone to learn along with you. 🙂
        You’re welcome, and thank you for your interest in the subject. 🙂

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  15. We try and use some Makaton symbols in school here..it is such a great thing to start early so it becomes second nature for the children 😊

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  16. I definitely agree that more people should learn at least a few important signs. I serve in a food pantry and we had a deaf person come in. I knew she was signing thank you, but I had no idea how to say you’re welcome. Your way of distinguishing the amount of time you expect to be gone is genius. I think it would be helpful for the hearing babies as well.

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    • Thank you, Manee. 🙂 I plan to talk about baby sign in a later post.
      It’s true that just a few important signs would be good for everyone to know. After all, how many people know how to say “hello” and “thank you” in multiple spoken languages? 🙂

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