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Should I teach my child American Sign Language?


Hello Dr. Vicars,

I hope you are doing great. I’m an admirer of your work and had a question. One of my kids was born hard of hearing. He is now █ years old and has hearing aids since he was █ months. Hearing loss was in the right ear and then maybe a year ago a second ABR was done and hearing loss was detected in his left ear. I noticed that you mentioned that your hearing loss increased over time and it got me thinking.

Currently our son is in pre-k at ███████████. The original goal was to mainstream him for kindergarten. Previously, I had asked a speech therapist if we should teach him ASL as a back up in case his hearing loss worsened. She said we didn’t need to, since he has the capability to speak and was at the point he could speak.

Do you think he should learn ASL in case his hearing loss increases over time? I wanted to get a second opinion. And I was trying to figure out if he does learn ASL, if I should learn it and teach him or if for Kindergarten he should go to a deaf/HoH school (I found a public school he could apply to).

Thank you for any of your valuable input.

[Name removed and minor edits to protect privacy/]


Absolutely! You should teach yourself to sign and while you are at it teach your son and encourage every human in his life to learn as well.

Many Europeans and other denizens of this earth tend to be amazed at the extent to which Americans tend to be pitifully monolingual. It is common for Europeans and many others pick up multiple languages and use those languages throughout their lives to their benefit and the benefit of those around them.

Proactive parents of children with (so called) normal hearing go out of their way to teach their children sign language so that their child can have earlier access to language, be around 9 IQ points higher than their peers by the third grade, and reduce dementia when they are old.

Thus it is flabbergasting that it is even a question in the minds of parents of children with hearing loss as to whether or not they should teach them a second language capable of providing full visual communication access.

Parents can play whatever word-games they want (hearing impaired, hard of hearing, non-Hearing, hearing disabled, hearing loss, blah, blah, blah) and spend their child's childhood trying to fix or cure or hide the fact that their child is Deaf -- or -- parents can instead simply accept the fact--and the label--and get busy fully preparing their child for a life as a successful Deaf human being.

The term "Deaf" doesn't exclusively mean an individual who is stone deaf with no ability to hear. Rather it can mean a member of the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Note that this community includes hard of hearing people. The name of the community is often shortened to Deaf Community.

Your son by virtue of physical hearing loss holds (gains) basic membership (if not yet cultural membership) in the community and thus is entitled to the label Deaf if and when he so chooses to adopt it by choice and by actions such as learning ASL and developing the values, knowledge, and life navigation skills of a fully capable member of the Deaf community.

Warm regards,
+ Bill
William G. Vicars, Ed.D.
ASL University (






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