Wednesday, April 29, 2009

To Teach Sign Language to Babies or Not

Published by bblovas1

I never cease to be amazed that often the same people who will say that it is a wonderful thing to teach hearing babies sign language are the same people who will discourage the use of sign language with deaf or hard of hearing babies.
Parents of deaf and hard of hearing children have told me horror stories of their experiences of being told to ignore their child’s gestures. The most heart wrenching illustration given to me was where a parent was instructed to actually turn away their gaze from their child signing the word, “milk”… to ignore the child’s prodding and pulling, to ignore the child’s pulling the parent to the fridge… to IGNORE the child until the child said the word ”milk.” I once spoke to a mother whose daughter was in an oral program for the deaf and hard of hearing. The mother was totally distraught and in tears because her deaf daughter was disciplined for signing the “I love you” sign that she had learned during the weekend while playing with one of her neighborhood hearing friends.

On the other hand, parents of hearing children will tell you that it is the “IN” thing to do: to teach your baby sign language. It is applauded by doctors and parents alike. Why is sign language good for one and not for the other?
First of all, as parents, it is not easy to accept the idea that our child might be “imperfect.” Whether we, as the parent, want to admit it or not; we live vicariously through our children. Any deficiency in our children is often believed (if perhaps only on a subconscious level) to be a direct reflection on us and our deficiencies as parents, or as human beings.

All of us also know very well what it feels like “wanting to fit in” or wanting to be “normal.” Keeping this in mind, let’s go back to my topic: why would we applaud teaching a hearing child sign language and discourage the deaf child from learning sign language? I would suggest that this rationale has more founding in relationship to our own fears than any scientific reasoning:

Science has proven that once a second language is introduced, language comprehension is expanded exponentially. Consequently, each additional language is learned with that much more ease. Spoken language, such as English, is a linear language. American Sign Language is a spacial language. Most don’t realize it, but sign language is a language; with all the markers of a true language. Teaching a baby sign language ignites neuro-pathways of language at an early age; thus, enhances the ability to attain language in general. That is why parents of hearing children are so hyped with the thought of teaching their babies sign language. They see the results!

Before a child can talk, they gesture. Gesturing is a natural transition into language. Babies not only can recognize and learn signed words easily, but also show the ability to group words together in sentence-like structures in order to make known their desires — before they are able to express their desires in spoken language. It is a fact that a child can hear instruction and understand it, before they can speak.

A deaf or hard of hearing baby has the same natural instinct to gesture. They have the same ability to sign as a hearing child would. Again, it is a natural transition. Yet, we take away their first language and expect them to speak — though they have not heard! We expect them to read our lips, when the most skilled adult lip readers, at best, catches less than 10% of what is spoken. You are probably asking is, “If they understand less than 10% of what is lip-read, how do they actually know what is being said?” The answer is, they use natural closure skills … which a baby or child has not yet fully developed. Closure and reasoning skills are developed via repetitive exposure and access to the stimulus of everyday experiences and communication norms. How dare we cut off the first language of a child, and expect that child to experience anything less than frustration and feelings of inadequacy?

We must focus on the need of the child, instead of our own need to fix the child to LOOK normal. The child’s need for fundamental language must be met. Anything less than that is neglect.

Focus on providing “total communication.” Give them language and you will open up the world to them. They can learn sign language, go to speech therapy and even study English composition, literature and other foreign languages… the sky is the limit!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Law of Reciprocity (something our grandfathers understood)

published by bblovas1

Just as we witness the natural laws of physics everyday and take them for granted. We even more overlook the simple law of reciprocity.

Everyday we see a affect of gravity at work. We know that if we throw a ball up in the air it, will fall back to the ground. We are not stupid enough to throw an anvil up and hope it will float away: we know it will fall straight down, and perhaps land on our head if we don’t move out the way fast.

Likewise, we see the affects of the law of reciprocity daily, yet by our action we prove that we don’t get it! Reciprocity isn’t a word we use everyday, but we do experience it everyday. Every time you eat a salad or enjoy the beauty of a flower you are benefiting from reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the return of like kind of offering. A plant gives up a seed and in return it makes a whole new plant. I am sure as you were growing up you heard the saying,” What goes around, comes around.” That is a true principle. If you are willing to cheat a friend, you will most likely choose the same type of friends as yourself, who will ultimately cheat you. If you are willing to have an affair with a married person, and they leave their spouse for you. You will undoubtedly have the fear that they will leave you too. Even if they never leave you, the guilt alone or the fear of it possibly happening can be crippling and enough steal the closeness of the relationship you thought you had. It is a matter of reaping what you have sown.

Another saying you probably heard is, “One good shake deserves another.” Apparently our grandparents had a grasp of reciprocity. Back then, a handshake or a verbal contract meant something. Our grandfathers understood that a good name was better than riches; and that going to bed with a clear conscience was reward enough for a hard day’s work. Apparently they understood much better than us what the bible meant by, ” Do unto others as you would have done unto you” … in layman’s terms, “treat others the way you want them to treat you.” Why? Because they understood reciprocity.

The Bible says, Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down shaken together and running over shall man give unto you.” It also says, ” If you have done [a good thing] for the least of your brethren, you have done it unto ME [God]. In the Bible, in Malachi, chapter 3, God talks about how people rob HIM by not giving Him the tithes and offerings that He has required. He challenges us to “test him to see if He will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing too big for us to receive. ” God has set certain laws into place: some physical and some spiritual.

Jesus said that true religion is demonstrated by us taking care of the widows and the orphans. God has told us several times to give to others and to take care of the needy, yet we hold back our money from God and ignore the needs of our fellow man … and wonder why we struggle to pay our own bills. It is time we woke up and realized the law of reciprocity is at work, whether we like it or not.

Some have built personal empires using those principles: the founder of Wendy’s, the founder of Walmart, Bill Gates … and one you might not have thought of as being rich: Mother Theresa. She was spiritually rich.

Reciprocity is at work among us everyday. Reciprocity is a principle that is applies to all — just as gravity is applies to us all. Knowing this should help you in making better decisions in what you choose to do today. Learn to give, learn to love, learn to lend to those who can’t repay you and be honest when no one else is looking … you will reap a good return!