I get this question often, 'Is ASL universal?'. Ummm, no.. First off, it means AMERICAN sign language. Second of all, does the world speak English? Sure, most Europeans learn it as a second language, but it is not their main language. Why is that, you might ask? The answer is simple=culture.
Culture plays a huge part in our language and how it evolves. Do you know that in some cultures, it is disrespectful NOT to look an elder in the eyes, yet in another culture, it is disrespectful if you DO look an elder in the eye. Did you know that Eskimos have such levels of cold that there are 50 spoken words in their language that describe snow alone!
Transfer that over to signed language. Motion, dialect, gestures, facial expression, eye contact all play a role in these visual languages. So, no , there is not a universal sign language.
When I went to Europe, I met 3 different groups of people who were signing and talked to 2 of the groups. It was comical,about as comical as me trying to speak English to someone in Slovakia who didn't know English. We tried, pointed and smiled alot. The first group I met was from Italy. How did I know-they drew the shape of the country in the air and then , yup, wrote ITALY on a paper;) Interestingly, they knew the sign for America that is in ASL-not sure if it is the same in Italian signs. They were thrilled to have me come over and chat and we muddled through with pen, paper and gestures. Later, I met a couple in Iceland. They knew English, so they could read my lips and half gestured and half spoke to converse with me. The last group I saw in the Iceland airport. It was crazy busy at the ticket counter and I was beyond exhausted, so I didn't converse. It was magical to me, though, to see signing all over Europe. It was frustrating, and mildly brain confusing, to not be able to understand it. It is such a given to me that when I see someone signing, I can understand.
My daughter is constantly pushing her brain to learn new spoken language.. I am going to look into seeing if I can find apps or something to try to learn some foreign sign languages... Keep ya posted!
There are so many confusing questions around buying hearing aids. Let's start, however, at the beginning. How do you know if your hearing loss even warrants a hearing aid? You go to the expert,right?
Sure, adults and kids alike go to to the audiologist who tests their hearing. They depend on this audiologist to explain the hearing test results , called an audiogram, and explain whether or not they have a hearing loss. General public also relies on the audiologist to recommend if they need a hearing aid or not.
Here is where the trouble begins. I have had students with moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears be told by their audiologist that they do NOT need hearing aids. I have seen adults who have a mild high frequency loss be told that they do need hearing aids... How do you know what is right?
In general, I would suggest you listen to the audiologist. You can even consider getting a second opinion. Ask why the audiologist thinks you do or do not need them. This is the important part. For children, language learning and concept mapping takes place during the early years of life. If you are wanting your children to become listeners and speakers, then it is important to get them aided early. In quiet, in a booth, children might be able to understand sounds and even words. It is more important to have your child tested in noise. This is when hearing and understanding breaks down. Many audiologist are not educational audiologist or pediatric audiologists. I encourage you to take your children to someone who has a good understanding of not just hearing loss, but also how hearing loss affects learning in a noisy classroom.
As for adults, again, if you can hear well in a quiet booth, have your audiologist test you in noise. Can you understand? Think about your job, your hobbies, your life..what do you do? If you are often lecturing in a quiet setting or working alone or even 1:1, you might not need hearing aids. However, if you enjoy dining out, attend conferences with many people, are a part of a large corporation where numerous staff sits at a table and "takes turns"(ie, interrupts each other) talking, you might need hearing aids.
Hearing aids are a big decision. Take time to think it over, ask for second opinions, and read up. Let me know what you decided.
Transitions can be really hard for all of us..change is the unknown, the unforseen,the never been done before.. We might think we know what to expect,but often it is better or worse than we imagine. For children with hearing loss, transition can be very difficult.
There are many types of transitions kids go through. It is the end of a school year-that is a huge transition. Changing to all day daycare vs home or school is a big transition. Changing from home to camp to swim lessons are littler transitions,but still have impact. Children with hearing loss often need information broken down, repeated,and rephrased in learning new information in school. The same goes for talking about transitions. Without extra prep on your end, transitions can become quite scary.
What can we do to help ease the fears and worries that go with these transitions? It is really important that families and staff working with children who have hearing loss talk alot about upcoming transitions. Create visuals-have a calendar to count down the days. Have a calendar to show the new events-are swim lessons weekly, twice/week, will day care be daily, half a day, twice/week? The options are endless. Sometimes children with hearing loss don't understand the full message-they might think they are going to day care or swim one time and that that event is over. Having discussions, preplanning,and having visuals lessens the confusion.
Try to keep some routine and some comfortable parts of the old routine mixed into the new-maybe they will use their school backpack to go to daycare, maybe they will take a stuffed animal from home for nap time at day care, maybe they will always get picked up for swim lessons at the same time of day. Try to incorporate things that give your children comfort when you are planning transitions.
Most importantly, remember, you were young once, too. Slow down and try to picture the world from their eyes. What may seem silly or inconsequential to you might be the biggest fear of these little guys' lives-give them the attention and love you know they deserve. A hug and a smile go a long way.
Hearing loss doesn't have to be a lonely thing.
Hearing loss can be isolating for children. It is often called the invisible disabilities, as children with hearing loss often don't have any physical needs other than not being able to hear. Children in school are often told they are lazy,if they don't follow all of a teacher's directions. Children may be teased, if they answer a question wrong in class or mispronounce something. Children are not always believed ,when they tell someone that they can't hear well.
These negative responses from others often lead children with hearing loss to have low self esteem. Children start to believe the negative images that are being portrayed of them. They start doubting that they can be successful. They start feeling isolated. Children with hearing loss often believe they are not smart,because they are doing work wrong or get in trouble in school.
I wanted to change that. I have been in the field of Deaf Education for over 25 years. I try daily to make a positive impact on my students, but I wanted to make a bigger difference. I started the Forever Friends' series for two reasons. I believe children with hearing loss need to see more characters with hearing loss in books. They can relate to these characters, understand the issues the characters are going through, and also celebrate the characters' successes. In this way, my hope is that children with hearing loss will see that they CAN do anything they want to do in life. my second reason for creating these books is to show hearing children that children with hearing loss CAN be successful. When hearing children learn a bit about deafness and hearing loss, they will be more understanding and more open to learning even more. They will start to see children with hearing loss just as children-who love to do same things that children with hearing like to do.
I truly hope you enjoy my weekly blog and my books. Please subscribe so you don't miss any of the blogs. Feel free to message me via the contact page, as well. I look forward to being your Forever Friend.
Allison Schley is a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing children. She took her passion for kids with hearing loss and became an author. She wants all children with hearing loss to know they are amazing and that hearing loss will not keep them from following their dreams.