Family Sign Language and Informational Series
and El Lenguaje de Señas Para la Familia (Spanish version)
by Lacey K. H. Wood, M.A.
Deaf Educator, Early Childhood
Family Sign Language and Informational Series
and El Lenguaje de Señas Para la Familia
by Color of Language (www.coloroflanguage.com/productsvid.html)
3 VHS or 3 DVDs, ASL, voice-over
The "Color of Language" company has produced a video series that is excellent for use by and with many* hearing families of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Whether the child is a newborn or a teenager, this video series offers a plethora of helpful, encouraging, research-based information for families who desire to communicate fluidly and naturally with their child. Throughout the video series, relationship is emphasized, and as an educator of young deaf/hard-of-hearing children and their families, I believe this concept is central to all families, regardless of size, culture, income, or interests. In addition to stressing relationship, the video series also puts tremendous highlight upon the need of the family to be fully involved in order to raise a child who is a successful reader, writer, language user, and eventually a productive adult member of society. Intertwined in all that it teaches is the video series' emphasis on the development not just of signs, but of FULL LANGUAGE-specifically, American Sign Language.
- Each of the 10 lessons in the video series is divided into segments that include instruction in the following areas:
- Vocabulary-Each vocabulary unit is approached by topics that are applicable to children and families.
- Practice sentences-These allow the viewer time to apply recently learned signs in natural, practical, fluid language use. An English sentence appears on the screen, time is given for the viewer to think through how he/she might sign the sentence, and then the Deaf instructor provides an example of how to sign the sentence to allow the viewer to self-correct.
- Education and cultural information-These segments are what make this videotape series particularly unique in comparison with other instructional videos on the market today. Provided in this section are basic ideas and information about the Deaf Community as a whole, as well as research about the education of and ideas for "what works" with deaf children in a variety of domains. The reality of raising a deaf child is presented in a way that is truthful, encouraging, and positive. In addition, parents can start becoming more familiar with aspects of a culture with which they may have never had contact before.
- Suggestions for teaching children-Practical, easy-to-use ideas are provided in this section. For example, the idea of making and using a simple written/picture schedule with your child in order to give his/her life consistency and predictability is described. Not only are the ideas described in understandable ways, they are also shown by hearing parents who have deaf children. These demonstrations are encouraging to parents who think they cannot teach or communicate with their child, as they can see other parents just like themselves doing these things well.
As an early childhood deaf educator, I see tremendous value in this video series for many of the families with whom I work on a daily basis. I see a great need in my aspect of the field of Deaf Education for the teaching of a complete language system to families, as so many programs and videos teach only individual signs. Perhaps the hardest part of developing expressive sign language is putting signs together in a way that is fluid and understandable. In addition, I believe that for parents, a big challenge in accepting their child's deafness is their inability to meet other Deaf adults, and as a result parents may view them as non-existent, marginalized, or unsuccessful individuals. Because the video series uses Deaf adults to do all of the instruction, parents receive a model of what their child will look like in the future. This model is exceptionally important to parents. Finally, a third aspect of this video series that I find extremely useful is that it shares both cultural and educational information. When parents are informed, they are much more able to take responsibility for their child and become actively involved in helping their child and family to succeed. They will hopefully gain comfort in communicating and interacting with Deaf people, and embrace the Deaf Community as a true benefit to the lives of themselves and their child. Practical, applicable knowledge is always the best kind, and this video series provides it. Overall, it is an excellent teaching tool for families with deaf and hard-of-hearing children who have chosen to use American Sign Language as their form of communication.
*Author's Note: Not every videotape or series will be right for every family with a deaf/hard-of-hearing child. It is important that professionals use their knowledge of family needs and their best judgment when recommending any resource to a family. In addition, for some families, much guidance about the use of the series will be necessary in order to get the utmost learning from it. Ultimately, this video series is a supplement to and a small component of a more comprehensive intervention and/or educational program that focuses on both the needs of the family and of the child. Happy viewing!