ASL Basics for Hearing Parents of Deaf Children Review

Video-Book Set Review:

American Sign Language Basics
for Hearing Parents of Deaf Children

Review by Teresa Coates

Reprinted with permission from:

DeafNation Newspaper

American Sign Language Basics for Hearing Parents of Deaf Children
written by Jess Freeman King, Ed.D. and Jan-Kelley King, M.S.
is available through Butte Publications, Inc.
Voice: 503.648.9791, Fax: 503.693.9526
URL:;  E-mail:

When a child is diagnosed as being deaf, the parents are thrown into a world they never imagined. If only Jess Freeman King and Jan Kelley-King could welcome each new parent of a deaf child into the Deaf Community. In a way they do, with their videotapes and accompanying workbook, American Sign Language Basics for Hearing Parents of Deaf Children. There are two videotapes in the package, the first is "Conceptual Instruction" and runs for 78 minutes. The couple explain a variety of topics; including past tense, directional verbs, ASL word order and much more.

Everything is explained clearly and easy to understand. Jess and Jan talk like friends, sharing the information a parent needs to know to establish real communication with their child. The signing was shown in a way that made it easy to watch, rewind, play it slow and understand the signs. I particularly liked the way signs were shown in sentence form rather than sign to word glosses. The ‘hosts' continually remind you of the reason for learning American Sign Language - your child.

The second video, "Practice" runs for 50 minutes and works hand-in-hand with the companion book. There are nine units with 28 lessons in all. The first unit is "Getting Started," naturally, and includes a lesson on identifying family members and the next about facial expressions. If you don't own a good sign language dictionary, get one now. You will need it - there are very few illustrations.

Each unit begins with an explanation of the focus, such as Unit 3: Questions ... "You recently learned how to combine basic signs into ASL sign order to form declarative sentences. You can change basic declarative sentences simply by altering your facial expression and body movement." When you watch the video for the first few practice sentences, it is clear what he means. The book and video perfectly compliment each other.

Within each lesson there are three sections: Introduction, Practice and Activities. For the introduction, there is more information on the specific topic of the lesson. Practice includes both practice sentences that are on the videotape as well as many more that you will need to practice on your own. This is when the ASL dictionary would come in handy. An English sentence is given, followed by an ASL gloss. Activities include conversations and games to play with your child to use the new sign language skills that you (or both) are learning. This is an excellent feature for parents, showing that communication and learning can be enjoyable for both parent and child. It makes the language useable, giving examples of how you sign a variety of sentences. The activities are beneficial, I believe, for any parent and child to open up the lines of communication.

The American Sign Language Basics for Hearing Parents of Deaf Children videotapes and companion workbook are practically a requirement for any parent wanting to learn to communicate in a language that is easily accessible for their deaf child - American Sign Language.

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