What To Do When Someone Tells You Not To Sign With Your Child

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What would you do when someone tells you not to sign with your child?

My daughter, Coral was learning two languages at the same time, English and American Sign Language (ASL).

Lately, she preferred to communicate via ASL and not using her voice to speak.When we go to places, people spoke to her and she replied back in ASL. I went to speak with Coral’s pediatrician at her wellness check up about her speech regression.

Going in, I knew that I would probably need to do the research on my own because the pediatrician might not know the best way to help a child of deaf adults (CODA). I was and still is an avid researcher, always finding new information to better myself and how I parent Coral anyways.

I thought that the pediatrician would say that we could send Coral to get evaluated, but really it is not a big deal. Boy, how wrong I was.

Just like a typical mom, I was concerned and I wanted to make sure my daughter is not delayed in any way. Before we went in the room, I told my interpreter and asked for her opinion because she was around deaf people and CODAs all the time. She chuckled and said, “Nah, it is just a phase. She is storing the spoken words in her brain and she will start talking in no time.”

The nurse came out to the waiting room and called Coral’s name. We went in the room and the nurse did her regular wellness check.

The pediatrician came in and we talked for a bit. The pediatrician took a couple of minutes to gather her thoughts after I expressed my concerns about her speech regression…

Coral’s pediatrician began with that she needed to sign less and talk more. What an excellent way to start the conversation with a life-changing idea, right?

Sign less and talk more.

With our own daughter, we should communicate less with her. Mr. Tropical and I don’t speak by choice and we rely on ASL to communicate. Therefore, it is impracticable for us to sign less with Coral. The pediatrician nodded as she said, “She needs to be around hearing people more. Speaking English is crucial and signing will interfere with that.”

Can you imagine a doctor advising you to stop communicating with your child in your own native language? Why is our language considered dangerous and will hinder with learning English, while all other languages are encouraged along with English to raise bilingual/trilingual children?

 

 

Then she went on talking about the research on deaf children. Deaf children who wore hearing aids, relied on spoken languages, attended speech therapy and/or had cochlear implants were successful in speaking and hearing. Deaf children who didn’t speak weren’t successful in life.

I was silent, not knowing what to say. Did she realize she was talking about me? About my fiancé, Mr. Tropical? About my friends? About a lot of deaf people in the deaf community? She was clearly not the best person to advocate for deaf people/parents.

Everything she knew of the deaf people and signed languages was corrupted.

Signed languages were recognized as equal as spoken languages. Spoken languages shouldn’t be considered as superior to signed languages because signed languages actually use more parts of the brain.

(The) other languages that are not as visual as ASL causes you to use the left side of your brain. Babies who learn ASL are actually using both sides of the brain which causes building of synapses (Snodden). Children who are taught sign language has demonstrated better spelling and larger vocabularies than children who did not learn sign language. They also have a tendency to show better speech and communication skills. – Ortiz

Who wouldn’t want their deaf child or CODA to use more parts of the brain to give them an advantage in life?

All of us have our own ways to communicate, whether it is in a spoken language or a signed language. Embrace all languages and learn how to adapt the teaching methods around the preferred language/s.

However, all of this shouldn’t matter because we were here to talk about my hearing daughter, Coral’s speech regression.

 

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At that moment, I realized that the pediatrician was stressed out about Coral’s future, whilst I was only concerned about the speech regression. I wasn’t worried if she was going to have a slim future just because she had deaf parents. Having deaf parents gave her an advantage in life and nothing less. She made me feel that I wasn’t doing a good job with Coral. For the first time in Coral’s entire life, I felt inferior.

I did not defend myself during the visit, unfortunately. I could have been yelling at the pediatrician, but I was silent the entire time. Why? At the time, I felt it was pointless for me to argue when she was already set in her own beliefs. She truly believed what she was spouting at me, just like many other hearing people I had met. She based her information on the biased research, myths, and generalizations. I would be wasting my breath because her closed-minded opinions weren’t going to change the way I raise my daughter.

I simply requested a referral to get Coral evaluated for speech therapy. After the visit, I notified the interpreter that it was time to find a new pediatrician.

I shouldn’t be feeling like I am a bad mom for not knowing how to speak and/or hear. I shouldn’t feel like I am impacting Coral’s life negatively.

She is thriving in all the other skills and is even above average in some. She already has a language in place, therefore she knows how to communicate. With a language already, she could learn how to speak effortlessly.

In conclusion, the interpreter was right, the speech regression was just a phase.

 

What are your thoughts? What would you do to change just one person’s beliefs about the deaf people and signed languages?

 

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Someone Tells You Not To Sign With Your Child

 

 

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12 Discussion to this post

  1. WOW! I think ASL is a beautiful language. I also feel like because facial expression is such a big part of it, it’s hard to misunderstand with verbal language. I think you should feel free to let your daughter as sign as much as she wants.
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  2. Kristie says:

    I can’t believe this!?!? I’m a hearing mother of hear children that believes in teaching children the little bit of ASL that I know. I know teaching children ASL can sometimes slow down there progression in speaking, but then it rapidly increases. Like you shared they are learning more as they see the language, understand it, and speak it.

    I’m glad that you are going to get another doctor. You sound like a wonderful mother! I have a girlfriend who was raised by parents who were deaf. She is thriving and is amazing. I don’t blame your daughter for preferring ASL. I have a friend and her daughter prefers it too, although no one is deaf on their family. She will catch on to speaking and English soon enough.

    I wish we lived closer and could hang out. Then your kid could hear my English and my kids and myself could be blessed to learn more ASL.

    Best wishes!

  3. Amber says:

    We are a hearing family but taught basic signs to our babies/toddlers. My one son was so frustrated that he couldn’t communicate with speech yet and it was causing behavior issues. Then once he could sign he was so much happier and when he finally did start talking it was in full sentences. I am almost certain that all the research into signing has pointed to it being a boost to language skills and not a hinderance.

  4. Andrea says:

    My son is delayed in his speech and we still sign here and there. He has recently had a burst in his vocabulary and showing us it was all just a phase. If there’s one thing I learned being worried you’re not being a good mom means you are 🙂 Bad moms wouldn’t be concerned. Keep it up mama!

  5. Kelly Daniel says:

    As a hearing mother of a three month old, but knows ASL, I think it’s entirely up to you to do what’s best for your child – hearing or not. There’s plenty of people who will have opinions or judge your course of action, but at the end of the day she’s your child and speaking as a teacher as well, her speaking abilities will evolve and change with time. It’s important for any child to be exposed to whichever language(s) she’s expected to use whether it’s spoken or signed. You obviously tuned out great and it sounds like your daughter is too. It’s unfortunate that you were made to feel bad about your parenting choices, but most often than not a mother’s intuition is always right 😉

  6. Wow I loved reading about this and I think you handled it well! I only know a little sign language but it really helped my kids communicate before they could really speak!

  7. Taria says:

    Wow!!! I am SO glad you did not listen to that pediatrician! And the way you handled yourself in the doctors office was amazing! Instead of you trying to prove your point and getting stressed and angry and upset, you recognized that you couldn’t change the pediatricians thought process…. So you calmly removed yourself from the situation! Way to go Mom!

  8. Amanda says:

    You, mom, rock! You saw the signs of a doctor who, in all honesty, should be unbiased and open, was a closed off, ignorant individual and changing will make your lives so much easier! I grew up dancing with a CODA whose parent was a single mother. She told us that she didn’t actually start talking with people until she entered school. She didn’t need to but had soaked up so much of the English language that she surprised her teachers.

  9. WOW, I m super angry at your pedi! That is horrible. You are NOT a bad mom. You are a super mom and Mr. Tropical is a super dad and never ever let anyone tell you otherwise! This got me emotional as I remember my own kids and my current life. We have deafness in our family, my mother and my son both have lots of hearing loss. My mother refuses to learn ASL, because well in her days it just wasn’t important, deaf or partially deaf people like her were tossed to the side anyways. My son stopped signing unfortunately when he was 11. He got tired of being literally the orange ball in a mass of green balls. he was born deaf in one ear, even after 3 surgeries. My current situation, I am relearning ASL because my BFF lives with me and one of her kids has a cochlear implant and his only language is ASL, he talks a little but not much.

  10. Evi says:

    Wow! I can’t believe someone would tell you that! I think you handled it well!

  11. Emily says:

    So glad you’re switching doctors! Knowing another language can only help a child – not hurt them! My little girl wasn’t speech delayed, but knowing a few signs helped her communicate before she was able to talk aloud well. She is very shy at school and hardly ever spoke, but one of her teachers taught her a few signs when she was turning one. (I am embarrassed to say it never occurred to me to teach her any!) One night at dinner I was having trouble understanding what she wanted and I noticed she was doing something with her hands and I realized she was signing “more milk”. She was so proud to be able to ask for what she wanted! She still uses a couple signs even though at 2 1/2 her speech is much better and she is not so shy at school.

  12. gina says:

    As a mom with 2 Deaf daughters we have been told not to sign to our Deaf children ad that my youngest would only have a voice if we gave her a Cochlear implant. All I have to say is they were wrong, my girls do great with ASL and english and my daughter who would never speak without a CI we sometimes wonder who”s idea it was for us to teacher her:)

    Im sorry that the pediatrician is so behind on his information and Im glad you chose to change.

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