Sunday, November 22, 2009

ASL and International Adoption

Because children adopted from international destinations are accustomed to hearing another language, sign may play a vital role in introducing a young internationally adopted child to communication. According to speech and language expects even children who are not adopted are able to sign their first word before they can speak their first word. Children usually speak their first word at 12 months, but infants can do their first sign at 7 to 8 months of age. It makes since then, that a child being exposed to English for the first time at the age of possibly 1 or 2 (or even later) might benefit from ASL combined with the new language they are being exposed to.

In The Complete Book of International Adoption by Dawn Davenport, parents are encouraged to “Use hand gestures or basic signs from American Sign Language (ASL) with your child, from infants through school age, as a way to transition to English with less frustration and tantrums” ( 8C&pg=PA281&lpg=PA281&dq=ASL+and+International+Adoptions&source=bl&ots=bjIP6u_hXM&sig=WBX4cfuAyUCw9Cp9irKCH3atRc&hl=en&ei=VzgKS5uAIZOMtAO85q3BCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CB0Q6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=&f=false).

One mother, with the internet name of jwpines, explained that sign really helped her adopted child to be able to communicate “rather than pointing and grunting in frustration” (http://www.signingtime. com/forums/showpost.php?p=2910&postcount=15). Her daughter even made “little signing jokes, like signing, “milk, milk, milk" really fast so that I would say it really fast” (Et al). Sign was a neat introduction to language because, though the child had to start all over again with learning to identify new language sounds at the age of 1, sign enabled her to communicate. It should be noted that this didn’t take away from her ability to learn English, because as in the example of the language joke, her adopted mother was using English (like saying, “milk, milk, milk”) while her daughter signed. In fact, jwpines noted of signing videos for children that she had ordered “are the best DVDs for teaching English, let alone Sign” (Et al). Sign videos were helping her Chinese daughter learn ASL and English at the same time! ASL accompanied by the parent’s voice provided both “visual and verbal” communicative development.

For the past three years I have been spending my summers working at an orphanage for disabled and handicap Romanian children. Unfortunately a very intelligent and physically capable young deaf Romanian boy is in this orphanage. I feel bad for him because I know he is very intelligent and capable of a lot more than he is exposed to in this negative environment. It was this boy, Cosmin, who first got me thinking about adopting deaf children from international locations. Because America has a thriving deaf culture, I think it is an advantage for deaf children to be raised in the United States. Within the U.S. deaf persons can be exposed to a “normal” life. In many other cultures these same children are institutionalized, like Cosmin, or considered dumb and/or left to beg. It is horrible to witness deaf people being treated as though they are disabled. When cultures treat deaf persons this way they are not only robbing people of their potential, they are robbing themselves from what their gifts and talents can bring the world.

Jamie Berke, a deaf person, considered adopting a deaf child in order “give the child the kind of deaf childhood I did not have”( /a/deafadoption.htm). After adopting a foreign deaf boy Jamie had the thought, “that if the computer had helped our child to find a family, wouldn't it help other deaf children?” (Et al.) which lead Jamie to establish Deaf Adoption News Service around March 1994.

From my international experience I can testify that deaf children in places like Africa and India are often subject to extremely horrible conditions, not to mention they are never exposed to a full language like ASL. Unfortunately they usually do not get the opportunity to use a language as Deaf and hearing Americans use ASL and English. I have a desire to help orphaned children in the third word, and among these I think that deaf child in the third world should be especially sought out early as children to be adopted in first world countries, like the U.S.


At November 28, 2009 at 10:38 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

really interesting... we're hoping to start sign with leo soon.


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