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Signing with a Torn Ligament:

In a message dated 12/10/2012 4:54:06 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, dionne1030 writes:

I am a beginner at ASL. I'm using your site to learn the basics, i,e, letters, numbers, adjectives, colors etc, before I take any actual classes. I just have one dilemma. My dominant right pinkie has a noticeable bend due to a torn ligament that has left it deformed, If you will. Although, I'm able to sign with that hand, It just looks a little weird. Like when I'm signing the letter 'Y', the pinkie is pointing straight at the person I'm communicating with. I thought it would be best to use my left hand since all the fingers are more straight, until I learned it was best to use my dominant hand. What do I do? Do I continue using my right hand and just explain my disability? Or, are there exceptions for people like me?
Thanks for your response in advance
- Dionne

Dear Dionne,

You could choose to switch to left-hand dominant signing if you'd like. That would allow you to do all of your spelling via your left-hand. The important thing isn't which hand you use but rather to be consistent about which hand you use.
For what it is worth, I once messed up a tendon in my right hand pinkie. I couldn't bend it any more. It freaked me out for a while due to my fingers being such an integral part of my life. For the next 4 months I worked on my finger, stretching it, bending it, moving it. I'd do weird stuff like bend it and then put a rubber band around the bent pinkie to keep it bent and apply ongoing pressure to bend it more. (Not for extended periods, but rather for frequent short periods and then relax it to give it plenty of circulation). While driving I would grasp the wheel with my other fingers but I'd bend my pinkie so that the nail was up against the wheel. I kept this sort of thing up until I had regained the ability to bend it on its own without assistance.
I tell you the above story since it may be possible for you to regain full use of your pinkie via therapy and/or self-therapy.
If you decide to not switch to become left-hand dominant in your signing, and if your efforts at rehabilitating your pinkie fail, you can always just go ahead and sign right hand dominant and not worry about it overmuch. Deaf people get old and gnarly just like the rest of the population and we get used to our elders signing with their old gnarly hands. On the bright side, from what I've seen, signing actually helps keep your hands more limber as you get older.
- Dr. Bill


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