Deaf Mentor Nicole with my daughter
Six months ago when my family entered the Deaf Mentor program to learn sign, I was pretty apprehensive about the whole prospect. I was concerned about how it would be to interact on a regular basis with a deaf person and about how well I'd be able to pick up a new language. But in the time since I've really grown to love the mentors who've come to our home. We've had two so far due to some turnover at the school. Nicole, our current mentor, has been coming to our home once a week for several months and has become a good friend. She is actually an old high school classmate of my wife's. Each week she comes and shares about 20 new signs with us and reviews signs from past lessons. We are about six or seven lessons in and the signs are getting more difficult, so the review is very helpful. In each lesson we also learn to put signs together into ASL sentences, which are organized very different from English sentences. Last we usually read a short lesson on deaf culture. And while my daughter can hear, it's still very enlightening to learn about what really is an entirely difference sub-culture right there in your own home town.
I'm picking up the signs more slowly than my wife who studied some ASL in high school, but it's coming. Nicole is very patient with me when I can't remember something and that really helps me to not be some embarrassed about it. My daughter usually sits in on the lessons and sometimes mimics the signs we make. Most importantly, she picks up new signs pretty regularly as my wife and I teach her in context in every-day situations. She is able to communicate much better than six months ago, but still gets frustrated and resorts to whining instead of signing. As communication improves I'm sure that situation will improve too.
So although my daughter can hear well with the help of hearing aids, her speech delays make this program a necessity for her development. Doctors have said that she may only learn about 7 spoken words in her lifetime. But thankfully through sign, she already communicates more words than that with her hands. Deaf Mentoring is a concept that can be intimidating. I know it certainly was for me, but despite some initial discomfort, it's been a great help to our family. If a program like this is available for your disabled child, hearing impaired or not, I'd recommend you check it out.