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Fingerspelling: Deaf Toddlers and Fingerspelling

Question:  And ASL student asks:
How to you teach toddlers when some of the signs are fingerspelled? I’m on lesson 9 [of the ASL University curriculum] and the words “stove” and “refrigerator” seem like pretty useful toddler vocabulary words for a parent. Are there alternative toddler signs? Or do they just learn fingerspelled signs before they can spell?


Toddlers in signing (typically Deaf) households learn to recognize commonly fingerspelled concepts (by sight -- not by decoding). Toddlers also fingerspell common concepts. The fingerspelling of toddlers is often highly blended and overlapping to the point of lexicalization (in other words -- the toddlers are not so much spelling as they are articulating a sign comprised of various shapes and movements).


There are various signs for "stove" and "refrigerator" -- but that is beside the point. The point is that toddlers that grow up being frequently and regularly exposed to fingerspelling develop the ability to recognize commonly fingerspelled concepts. The adults in such environments become adept at recognizing child-like fingerspelling. My goal in the lessons isn't to teach "workarounds" it is to teach students authentic signing as done by (the majority of) actual Deaf in real life. While a person could point out exceptions -- the goal isn't to learn to sign like a small subset of the community -- it is to sign in ways that are recognizable and common to the typical socially-active adult Deaf skilled signer.

At your convenience, see this page and read about my daughter, Kelsey, asking for vitamins:






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