Learning ASL as a FAMILY

How we taught ourselves many signs at home using free resources
Family Photo

Sierra, with husband, Tim, and son, Sean, 12. Sean has developmental delays and moderate hearing loss. Courtesy photo

I have a 12-year-old, shark-obsessed son, Sean. Sean was born with disabilities including Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis (CRMO), global developmental delays and moderate hearing loss. We have been joined by my new husband, Tim, who has decided to share our crazy journey.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to my family, beginning with a cross-country move in the dead of winter from Oregon to New Hampshire so I could spend a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities.

I spent a week in the office before transitioning to working remotely, just as school changed over to remote learning for Sean. As a family, we learned quickly about Zoom meetings, distance learning, and how to schedule everything — while being in our new home all the time.

With Sean’s hearing loss and developmental delays, it became apparent that Zoom meetings and virtual learning were not a good fit.

Tim and I discussed it, and decided that homeschooling would best meet his needs for the upcoming school year.

We spent the summer pursuing learning in a fun and meaningful way that would serve Sean in the future.

We have been self-isolating since the middle of March because the medicines Sean takes for CRMO weaken his immune system. That means we have had a lot of at home time.

Some of this time has been spent learning American Sign Language (ASL) and about Deaf culture. It started as just a way for Sean to say “pain” and tell us where he felt it without having to speak when it was intense, but it has since evolved into a love of learning for him.

I took ASL courses in high school but that was a while ago, so I began by teaching him simple signs from baby sign language videos such as “more,” “all done,” and “wait.”

As I refreshed my own memory, I taught Tim and Sean signs they were curious about and showed them resources that they could use to learn on their own.

We incorporate the signs we know into our conversations, which helps us learn new signs. Now Tim and Sean both know around 50 to 75 signs very well, and can still learn many more. This school year we will continue to do even more at home — learning signs and spending more time exploring Deaf culture.

ASL resources

A few of the resources I have used in our family’s quest to learn American Sign Language:

• ASL Connect: https://www.gallaudet.edu/asl-connect/asl-for-free

• ASL University: www.lifeprint.com

• National Association of the Deaf: https://www.nad.org/resources/american-sign-language/learning-american-sign-lan guage/

• Manchester School District program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, resources for parents: http://dhh.mansd.org/home/parent-resources

Sierra Lubahn is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Categories: Stepping Stones NH