American Baby Sign Language - "Better Late Than Never"
by Margaret (Peggy) Borle
(Cranbrook, BC, Canada)
Baby Peggy Signing the Sign for 'Camera'
My name is Margaret (Peggy) from Canada and I am a Child of Deaf Adults (C.O.D.A.). I am 46 years young, have 3 hearing siblings and 3 hearing children. I also have many aunts and uncles who are deaf. I come from a family of profoundly deaf people and I love it!
I would love to share my baby sign language story.
I am the ears, eyes and voice for my parents (to this day). I am the second oldest, my brother is the oldest. I am the oldest daughter and so I assume this role as a C.O.D.A.
For us, signing started right from birth, especially when your parents are deaf. Naturally, we signed and communicated at a young age.
I remember teaching my younger sisters and felt proud when they learned a new word. To me, it was a natural part of our world and I never gave it a second thought. We are a deaf family and this is what we do. No big deal, right? Just accepted it for what is was.
I continued with my sign language into adulthood and became a sign language interpreter and instructor. Again, no big deal, right? Just accepted it for what is was.
But! When I started my own family, that is when I truly appreciated the wonderful benefits of A.S.L. The minds that babies have! Truly amazing! So, I set forth to teach my children to sign from birth.
Now, not to be gender racial or anything, but girls do learn language before boys. I have seen this throughout my life living in a deaf world.
I have a boy, girl, boy. The two boys just humored me, I think. They learned a few signs here and there. But my daughter, she absorbed it like a sponge. And so I began to list all the words she knew in sign language.
By the age of 15 months of age, her signing vocabulary was at 75 words. Her vocal words were maybe at 25. Amazing!
She was putting sentences together by 15 months of age before she could fully speak. She signed through the car window to me, “The baby is crying”. In A.S.L....”point to baby, sign baby + cry, point to baby”. Wow!
In public, our daughter would walk up to us and sign, “I want milk”. We would vocalize this and people would ask, “How do you know she wants milk?”. I would reply, “Because she just signed her needs to us”. From there, the conversation turned to the benefits of sign language (after we got her the milk, of course).
My 2 other boys finally took an interest at the age of 5. Why? They wanted to talk to Grandma and Grandpa. “MOM!!!! How do you sign, hockey??” And so started the second round of teaching sign language to my children. “Better late than never”.
Then the teenage years came along. Forget signing. They just wanted to hang out with friends. Time went by and with a bit of patience on my part, I waited. Lo and behold! “MOM!!!!! How do you sign hockey, again???” Round three.
Better later, than never.
My kids are now young adults and when the grandchildren come along, I will be ready for round one all over again. :D
The picture of the baby is me signing "camera"