ASLpah.com | Volume 1, Issue
21, April 2005 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor
Articles This Issue: (scroll down to see the articles)
ADHD or just DEAF?
(Drugs for the dopamine and
office of an ASL instructor
Teach reading to deaf via phonics?
Setting up a spatial pronoun
Sociolinguistics of ASL
ASL potty training helper
● ***Teaching boyfriend's 15
year-old Deaf son
Motivated Student wants to go beyond the classroom
The sign for "hard nosed"
● *** Topic: ASL Grammar: How do you sign "learning
on the internet."
"A Hypermedia Learning Tool
for Ethiopian Sign Language"
ASL University Newsletter
William Vicars, Ed.D.
ASLpah.com & Lifeprint.com
***ADHD or just DEAF?
In a message dated 2/14/2005 5:18:35 PM Pacific
Standard Time, BritestBlueEyez@______ writes:
My name is Stephanie I live here in Denton TX. It
just seems that all they [the doctors and teachers] want to do is keep my daughter on med's
(to keep her calm) I need to learn a way to help her without the
med's and try to help her learn how to express herself without
acting out. I work full time being a single mom of 3. Twin boys
one with CP and Mild MR and health problems and one is hard
hearing. It has been a hard road but I have made it with joy.
I just do not like idea of my daughter being on med's (or
drugged) instead of trying to teach her to express herself. I
would love for her to go to school here but she was 6 before she
even had a language to communicate. Due to lack of ASL in public
school and she has grown a lot because of the school and learned
a lot. I feel trapped I really do not have a clue of what to do
at all. I am currently trying to build my skills in sign in
between work and Ard meetings and cleaning ect.. and build the
twins sign to keep up with her. She does to school in Austin
Mon. thru Fri and she is home on weekends. I tell the school my
concerns and they say they cannot teach without the med's
because she will not sit still or pay attention. I asked them
about alternate methods and teaching her to express herself and
they told me she has not grasped the concept of feelings in sign
yet. So I told them I would like for her to learn and be taught
so we could get off the med's. I love my daughter and I agree
to the med's because I do understand she is very hyper and
defiant with the understanding it is not permanent, but they are
not teaching her to express herself and I just need to know
where to go to get help or what to do. I feel stupid because I
do not know what to do or where to go she is my daughter and I
feel I should be able to help her and I cant and it is the most
awful feeling in the world to feel I am failing her. I am sorry
if I have bothered you but I have been using your sight to help
with my signing skills which have been helping a lot. Thank you
for taking time out to read this and I am sorry to bother
You are not a bother. I know how you feel regarding the
medicating of your daughter. I have four children. My youngest, Sarah,
has "Aperts Syndrome."
The school district has labeled my daughter ADHD
It is not an easy thing to deal with.
The "professionals" all suggested medication. After giving it a lot of
thought, my wife decided that was the way to go. I didn't like the
idea. I thought it was a cop out. I thought it would make my daughter
a zombie and that by agreeing to it I was somehow guilty of harming her
or "shortchanging her."
My wife and I had numerous "discussions" regarding this topic. (People
who don't know how much we love each other might have misinterpreted
these discussions as ...um...arguments.)
I did quite a bit of reading on the topic of ADHD and noticed there was
an extreme amount of divergence in opinions. (Apparently my wife and I
weren't the only ones "discussing" this topic.)
What it came down to was that each child is different. Medication does
turn some children into zombies. But the fact is it also works wonders
for other children.
So, I accepted an ongoing program of medicine for my daughter. I
personally don't see much difference in her behavior with or without the
medicine. But, believe it or not, every time my wife or I forget to
give Sarah her meds, we receive a phone call by about 11:00 a.m. from
the school nurse asking us if we gave Sarah her medicine. Apparently
the difference is extremely noticeable to Sarah's teacher.
My thoughts on the topic have evolved somewhat over the past few
months. I've asked myself, "Why was I so resistant to the idea?"
The answer was that I was seeing the medicine as a harmful drug rather
than as a necessary substance which my daughters biochemistry was
My wife takes thyroid medicine. I don't agonize over her taking it. I
don't feel guilty about it. It is something her body needs of which her
thyroid gland doesn't produce enough. She is not "less of a person"
because she takes her thyroid medicine. By taking her medicine she is
able to function normally. She would be at a great disadvantage without
The fact is the glands and brains of many children do not produce
enough dopamine and norephinephrine. Children lacking these
neurotransmitters are at a great disadvantage. They are unable to make
appropriate choices regarding what they should devote their attention
to. They might decide that a fly buzzing by is more important than their
With that in mind I suggest that you go along with the medications that
your school suggests and in the meantime you should read as much as you
can about the topic of ADHD. Become an expert on the topic and learn
the things to watch for to make sure she is indeed responding well to
the medication rather than becoming a zombie. Don't hesitate to ask
your doctor to try a different medication if she is not responding well
to the one she is on currently. Not all medicines work the same and
they affect different children in different ways.
Spend as much time with your daughter as you can conversing with her and
interacting with her. Visit the library and bring home stacks of
"picture" books for her. Later get her hooked on comic books. As far as
helping her to develop her "attention span," you might want to practice
rewarding her for being able to sit still. I do that with my daughter.
When she wants certain treats or privileges I'll have her "earn them"
by folding her arms and sitting quietly for longer and longer periods of
You might also want to search the Internet for listserv's and support
groups. I know that my wife gained much comfort from the Apart
Listserv. I recommend you check out the American Society for Deaf
Children. According to their website mission statement: "ASDC is a
national organization of families and professionals committed to
education, empowering, and supporting parents and families to create
opportunities for their children who are deaf and hard of hearing in
gaining meaningful and full communication access, particularly through
the competent use of sign language, in their homes, schools, and
Best wishes. Cordially,
Dr. Bill Vicars
***Dream office of an ASL instructor
Recently the college asked me for my input
(wish list) regarding future building construction. Here's my
"Offices that can be used as online classrooms"
- The wall space behind the teacher's
office desk area consists of an ideal background for video recording
- The wall space in front of the teacher's
desk contains sufficient lighting options to facilitate video
recording and broadcasting. For example, at the flip of a button
the instructor would be bathed in enough light to create a clear and
- The instructor's desk area is equipped with
or designed to accommodate videoconferencing equipment.
The goal here is for an instructor to be able
to very quickly and efficiently turn his daily working desk station
into an online, interactive, distance-education classroom.
*** Teach reading to deaf via phonics?
In a message dated 2/3/2005 10:48:03 AM Pacific Standard Time,
Dear Dr. Vicars,
Allow me to introduce myself very briefly. My name is Dorota
Matsumoto, I am a Slovak living in Japan, and at the present time I
am trying to do some research considering teaching foreign languages
to Japanese deaf/hard-of-hearing students. I have encountered your
ASL University web page the other day. I understand that you are an
extremely busy person, however, I would like to ask you, as an
educated Deaf person and a teacher, some questions and your
opinions. Today I am only trying to contact you. I apologize for
taking your time. I would appreciate your help very much.
Sure...ask your questions.
In a message dated 2/9/2005 11:00:41 AM Pacific Standard Time,
Thank your for your quick response!
I only hope you will not be disappointed
with the level of my questions.
I believe that learning foreign languages
is a great thing. (You are bilingual, so I don't need to explain
to you why.) In Japan it's English that is taught as a foreign
In general, education of the Deaf here
still has to deal with many issues.
In my opinion, one of them is the approach
to teaching English.
The opportunity to actually communicate in
English is minimal. Students are "actively" exposed to English
only several hours a week. Many soon become pessimistic about
their abilities to learn English.
A lot of teachers put stress on
pronunciation. When I started to learn English, I remember that
it was very difficult for me to recognize individual words (that
I already could understand in the text) in spoken English. I am
not sure how important was the knowledge
of the sound (proper pronunciation) for my
reading. I know that as a hearing person I probably do rely on
phonological information when I read, and when I encounter an
unfamiliar word in the text I try to sound it out in my mind.
But I do not think that the Deaf students do the same thing
during reading in a foreign language. What is your opinion about
I was also wondering about rhyming, I
mean, does it provide any clue for the Deaf students when they
(Especially when they are
Do you think it is important to teach
pronunciation of English as a foreign language from the
For the Deaf in the U.S., English is a
second language. What kind of materials are used by the teachers
they start to teach reading? Are they same
as for the hearing?
I hope I am not bothering you very much.
I also know I should have tried to find
more information on this in books. I'm sorry.
I will so appreciate your sharing the
knowledge and opinions of yours. I apologize for my "amateurish"
questions (and for mistakes in my English, too.)
Here we go:
Let me first point out that being deaf doesn't mean that you
can't hear. That may seem like a contradiction, but it
isn't. Let's consider blindness for a moment. If a
person is "blind" does that mean he can't see anything and his
world is totally black? Many people who are legally blind
can actually "read" text if it is enlarged enough. Many legally
blind people can see general forms and shapes.
situation exists for individuals who are deaf. We have
varying levels of hearing. Very few deaf people are "stone
deaf" to the point of not hearing anything at all. Plus,
"hearing" is actually a process of translating vibrations into
signals that are sent to the brain for processing. There
is research showing that people can "hear" via their sense of
touch. I won't go into that in this discussion but it is
important to remember that deaf people vary in their access to
below focus on individuals who are profoundly deaf and have
little or no access to phonological information.
Question: What is your
opinion about emphasis on phonological
information while reading?
think there are other much more effective
methods available. Why not focus on "sight
recognition?" Meaning: developing the
ability to recognize whole words when we see
them. I also think it is important to teach
word roots and how words can be modified to
take on different meanings.
Question: Is rhyming
helpful for Deaf students who are in the
early stages of literacy?
Response: I feel rhyming
is counterproductive for deaf students. Time
could be better spent matching pictures to
concepts and then to words.
Question: When teaching
English as a foreign language to deaf
children, do you think it is important to
teach pronunciation from the beginning?
Response: No. I think
that when a child is born deaf the parents
should immediately begin learning and using
a visual-gestural language with the child.
They should expose the child to massive
amounts of visually accessible
communication. I feel the child should be
exposed mainly to a "natural" visual
language. I believe the child should also
have some exposure to "contact-signing"
consisting of speech and signing (simcom).
There are those who will disagree with me
regarding any use of "simcom"
(simultaneous communication: gestural/spoken)
but I feel research will eventually bear out
an overall increase in cognitive development
and an increased ability to lipread as an
adult. Remember though my main focus is on
the use of a naturally occurring sign
language such as ASL or JSL.
Focusing on spoken language while excluding
visual language tends to lead to
frustration, burnout, and a dislike for the
Question: What kind of
materials are used by the teachers of they
deaf when they start to teach reading? Are
they same as for the hearing?
many teachers of the deaf are using the same
materials that are typically used in hearing
classrooms. There are many reasons for this
including lack of training, scarcity of
adapted materials, time constraints,
insufficient funding, limited access to
materials, and just plain laziness.
However, as time goes on there are more and
more materials available that can be ordered
online and shipped anywhere.
honestly I think the BEST way to teach
English literacy (both spoken and written)
to deaf children is via "Virtual Reality."
While this technology was originally
expensive, as time goes on it becomes
increasingly affordable. Eventually
Deaf children will put on a headset and be
thrust into a three dimensional world where
they are transported to various locations
and exposed to thousands of concepts via
multi-text. By this I mean "multiple
context communication." For example
multitext would consist of captioned "real
life" videos side by side with a video of a
sign language interpreter.
way the student would simultaneously:
Have access to the concept in a real life
setting via true-to life video
Have access to the visual language sign for
Have access to the English word for the
Additionally multitext will be "clickable."
A student will be able to click on any image
to pause the video and automatically display
a dialog box containing additional
information regarding that concept
extended explanation of the concept
Examples of usage
Links to more information
the student has satisfied his curiosity
regarding the concept he then clicks to
close the dialog box which then closes and
the video/multitext automatically continues
from that point.
(virtual reality) lessons will be
constructed in "game format." Meaning they
will be very similar to an arcade game in
that students will be presented with a
challenging objective and resources to
accomplish that objective. Progress toward
the objective will require greater and
greater facility with the target language.
For example "target vocabulary" will be used
as keys to obtaining additional health and
power for the student's avatar.
(Dr. Vicars of Lifeprint.com)
In a message dated 2/9/2005 6:52:41 PM Pacific Standard
Time, email@example.com writes:
you very much for answering my questions.
completely agree with you. The deaf children should
be exposed to natural visual language and thus be
able to develop a solid first language. I also think
that bilingual-bicultural education is very
important. JSL and Japanese, ASL and English, etc.,
where the sign language should be the first and the
spoken language (mainly in its written form) should
be the second.
However, I am interested in English as a foreign
language (EFL) that is a part of curriculum in
schools for the Deaf here. Of course, it would be
ideal, if the Deaf students could choose ASL or any
other foreign SL as their foreign language first but
they do not have that option yet. The teachers are
also usually ordinary Japanese English teachers with
no command of ASL. (and, even very often with only a
poor command of JSL)
was wondering, when teaching English literacy to the
Deaf Japanese, do you think it should be taught
through ASL? Wouldn't that be something like
teaching Latin through Greek? (As far as I
understand, JSL and ASL are different languages.)
You are also mentioning importance of using some
simcom in order to increase the ability to lipread.
Doesn't that then mean the pronunciation should be
taught? Actually, some teachers of English here
claim that the students themselves ask them about
the pronunciation so they can better remember new
vocabulary. (For that I would blame oral-aural
teaching methods they are accustomed to...)
focus in EFL education for the Deaf Japanese should
be put on literacy skills, reading and writing,
rather then on speaking, I am certain of that. I
also think that there must be some efficient way of
teaching reading English (=being able to comprehend
English text, not to pronounce it)
without emphasizing phonological information. If you
think otherwise, could you explain your idea,
Hypothetically, if you were to start learning Slovak
language (Dobry vecer = Good evening) would
you feel you need (want) to know how it is
paper Phonological coding in word reading:
Evidence from hearing and deaf readers,
according to their research, Hanson and Fowler
argued that access to phonological information is
possible despite prelingual and profound hearing
impairment. They examined deaf college students who
were advanced readers. So my question is, if
prelingually deaf readers can be able to access
phonological information, does it occur when they
become good readers or do they have this ability
from the beginning? How about you? Do you use any
special strategies when you read?
kinds of complicated questions have been crossing my
mind recently, and I sincerely apologize for
bothering you with some of them. As I have already
mentioned, being able to communicate also
in languages other than one's mother tongue, is a
wonderful thing. It can widen horizon and bring many
new opportunities to the Deaf students, too.
very excited when you kindly sent me your first
e-mail: Hi Dorota, Sure...ask your questions.
I was more than happy to find your e-mail with
thoughtfully answered questions this morning.
reading this one now, you perhaps think that I took
advantage of your kindness.
Although hopefully waiting for your further answers
(or discussion), I absolutely understand if you will
not react to today's 'writings' of mine as you are
occupied with more important things.
Finally, I would like to ask, if I may cite some of
your invaluable opinions in my paper. I thank you in
you all the best every day.
You are welcome to cite my comments. Let's
get down to the absolute point here: "accessing
phonological information" is a fancy way of saying
"sounding out words."
Sounding out a word means, looking at the parts of a written word and
either saying them aloud in different combinations
a mental tape recording of the different possible
pronunciations of the the word in your brain so you
can compare the resulting sounds with a storehouse
of word-sounds (sounds groupings that
are consistently associated with specific concepts)
in your brain that you already associate with words.
The success of "sounding out a word" is based on the
premise that you've seen a dog and while you were
seeing that dog you heard your
parents say the word "dog" and thus you've
stored that combination in your brain somewhere but
have not yet associated that concept with the
letters d-o-g. By pronouncing the letters d-o-g to
yourself you will "hear" the word "dog" and thus
remember that is the sound-grouping that your dad
uttered when he pointed at that furry thing with
four legs and a tail. Then you form the
association in your mind that the letters d-o-g
probably also refer to a furry thing with four legs
and a tail. Thus phonetics helped you to
figure out how to "read" the word "dog."
If prior to reading the word d-o-g you didn't "hear"
mom or dad say "dog" when that furry thing with four
legs and a tail walked by, then phonics isn't going
to help you much.
In response to your question, "does reading precede
skill at phonological decoding/recoding or does
phonological decoding/recoding precede reading
ability"--my answer is that the two processes are
intertwined, symbiotic, and influenced by numerous
other factors including a person's general level of
A more important question though is, "Is some
method other than "phonics" more
efficient and effective at helping children who
are deaf develop reading skills?"
*** Setting up a spatial pronoun
In a message dated 2/11/2005 3:37:07 PM Pacific Standard Time,
Dear Dr. Vicars,
I came across your web address while searching for ASL signs. I
am in hopes
that you can help me.
I am attempting to teach my 20 month old son sign language to
severely delayed speech and so that we can communicate. Do you
know of a
comprehensive dictionary for use with children? Through
dictionary searches, I have yet to find signs for yogurt or
As a beginner trying to put together a 'dictionary' for my son,
You will be hard pressed to find one dictionary with "all
the signs" in it.
Some concepts like "yogurt" are not widely established in ASL and
are spelled or described.
Some people invent signs for such concepts, but often these
"invented" signs are not accepted by the Deaf Community. Or at
least, not yet. Like any living language, ASL acquires new
vocabulary as time goes on.
For example, you can sign "yogurt" like you do ice-cream but instead
of an "S" hand use a "Y" hand. While some Deaf are open minded about
that idea (initializing the sign "ice-cream" to mean yogurt), many
others will reject it immediately and state that it should be
fingerspelled. Perhaps later it will become accepted by the
majority if and when enough people use the sign that it would be
difficult to claim it is not a sign.
The sign "block" would use the sign "box / room" and an indication
of the size of the block. After it is established in context you
can use just the sign "box" to mean blocks.
Visit your local library and check out an armload full of
dictionaries and videos.
Realize though that the best ASL dictionary is a living breathing
member of the Deaf Community.
Make friends with Deaf people and invite them over. You can ask
them how to sign things.
Response to a person who asked me for some pointers regarding
learning ASL and suggestions for a study plan. I have interacted
with his children. They sign pidgin and or a bit of SEE.
I'll share a few quick thoughts with you regarding learning the
language and then I'll give you some recommendations as far as study
First thing to do is to realize there is an extreme amount of variety
In the Deaf community, some signing styles are more accepted than
Some people feel that "their" system is the best way and are really
quite adamant about it.
There are no hard and fast divisions in the spectrum of visual-gestural
communication. It is a continuum (a range of signing methods and
In general the continuum consists of:
Spoken English (mouthing of words)
Rochester: Mouthing and fingerspelling
SEE: Signing Exact English
Pidgin (Contact Signing) Using ASL signs in English word order
At their school, apparently, your children are being exposed to Signed
English--and perhaps some "Contact Signing."
Which is to say, they are being taught to represent each English word on
This is not "good or bad," but some people may try to tell you it is.
My response is simply that Signed English has its pros and cons.
Most deaf adults however tend to sign further along the continuum
in the ASL range (depending on their upbringing and current
involvement with others in the Deaf community).
This is due to the fact that the grammar of ASL is much more suited to
efficient visual gestural communication.
For example, to sign "I am a teacher" a deaf adult would tend to sign
"ME [head nod] TEACHER." It is important to realize that in ASL no
information has been left out. The movement of the head would function
as the "state of being verb (am) and the article (a)." The concept is
completely conveyed via those two signs and the head nod. This is not
"baby talk" it is simply 3D talk. If I wanted to sign "I am not a
teacher." I could sign "ME [negative head-shake] TEACHER." Again, the
whole concept has been conveyed in the language of ASL. A picture is
worth a thousand words. A sign is often worth many spoken words. I share
this with you so you will know that you don't have to sign every English
word to be understood by the Deaf.
I would not worry overmuch about signing styles though unless you are
taking a class for a grade. If you take a class from an
instructor, do it "his or her" way and get your grade. Note: ASL meets
college "foreign language" entrance and exit requirements whereas Signed
English does not. Don't let concern over doing it "the right
way" stop you from progressing though. Just dive in, interact with
as many Deaf as you can, and have a good time.
Before you know it--you'll be signing like one of us.
In a message dated 2/18/2005 2:54:49 PM Pacific Standard Time,
i have been reading some of the responses to cochlear implants
and some of the statistics that are quoted regarding reading
levels today; i thought things had changed since the 80's
regarding this but i guess not--not by looking at statistics
today in 2005. my questions is why are 17-18 yr old seniors in
a deaf school, residential, charter, or day school only reading
at a 4th grade level? I'm having a hard time comprehending this
and need answers. does the education systems of our country
need to re-do the Stanford test to accommodate the deaf/hoh, or
do we need more aggressive teachers, deaf or hoh, to teach
reading skills. I'm a hearing person, but i still cannot fathom
why our deaf/hoh children are only at 4-5th grade level at the
age of 17-18.
please, if i'm way off base, please let me know--set me straight
so to speak--i realize the
deaf/hoh dont have the same idioms as the hearing--no offense
intended, please. this is just
really frustrating me is all and i need answers. anything u can
give me will be beneficial.
There are many factors involved. Many more than could be done
justice in an email message. For a full discussion, check out
Schirmer, B. R. (1994). Language and literacy development in
children who are deaf. New York, Toronto, New York: Merrill.
You can order it via Amazon.com.
If after reading the book you happen to have questions I'd be
happy to respond to specific items (time permitting).
In a message dated 2/18/2005 7:38:10 AM Pacific Standard Time,
Dear Dr. Vicars,
My daughter is taking ASL. She needs to have things repeated
because she is unable to negotiate small differences. Which is
LOVE your website. The pictures are very clear and informative,
always look friendly (except the signs where you are supposed to
angry or disgusted) and consistent with what she is learning in
But when I bought an ASL dictionary for her, I found small but
differences. So... do you have, or can you recommend, a book
basically a printed version of your on-line dictionary, with
photos ( as opposed to illustrations that aren't always clear)?
Hi! ASL books do tend to contain many inconsistencies. I think the
important question here is what book is her instructor using? Or is
the instructor even using a book? (Or are you home schooling?)
If the instructor is using a book then THAT is the one to get.
As far as books with clear signs...I think you might want to take a
trip to your library and check out an armload of books and
see which one fit's your daughter's learning needs the best.
In a message dated 2/17/2005 5:01:22 PM Pacific Standard Time,
First of all I want to say thank you for providing
this resource. Lifeprint is the only site I've come across that
has a truly comprehensive and well-paced "lesson" structure that
actually endeavors to *teach* sign language rather than just
trying to burn a bunch of signs into your head. I did however,
have one question, in reference to indexing..
As I understand the process of indexing, you're sort
of setting up a "spatial pronoun", letting a point in space
represent the object or person in question? *My* question then
has to do with how and *when* you would make that association...
Let's say for instance that I wanted to say:
"Jim and I went to the store. While we were there, he was
flirting with the cashier."
My question, is when and where would you index "Jim" in this
sentence, so that you could use that point of reference for "he"
later on? Right after you fingerspell his name, do you point
off to the area in space you want to use? And is there a rule
as to where you'd point off to?
I have a feeling that I'm overcomplicating things a bit, but
I'd appreciate any clarification you could give :-D
You'd sign: J-I-M "WE-TWO-(k-handshape, pivots at the
wrist)" GO STORE.
INDEX-(he)-(point to right) FLIRT CALCULATOR+AGENT.
You wouldn't need to sign "while we were there" because it is
understood (grammatical ellipsis). But if you decided to put
it in you could use:
INDEX-(he)-(point to right) FLIRT CALCULATOR+AGENT. The sign
THERE in this case could be done with a flat hand, palm up, pointing
with the fingertips
to the right.
Sociolinguistics of ASL
In a message dated 2/25/2005 7:45:08 AM Pacific Standard
Time, ovitsk@ writes:
This is Ovi. I am a current graduate student at
Lamar University in Deaf Education. I suppose to
develop my webquest for children. I decide to have
title "Deaf Equiette." If there is any way I can
find some good example of Deaf Equiette, anything?
For example, Deaf people tend to tap on the table -
what is that called? Tend tap on the floor to get
your attention - what is that called? Etc... Do
you know where I can find? I find some but I need
Thank you for your time to think...
Behaviors such as tapping and waving are referred to as:
"Norms for getting attention" or "methods for getting
attention," "attention getting behavior." Additionally such
"communication acts" could be referred to as a type
of "signaling" or a type of "discourse marker."
The topic you seem to be interested in here is
"Sociolinguistics of ASL."
You could also categorize attention getting behavior under
"Deaf Culture" -- depending on whether you are looking at
this from a linguistic point of view or a cultural point of
*** ASL potty training helper
In a message dated 3/4/2005 9:14:10 PM Pacific Standard
Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I just wanted to pass on that I put up a Potty Training
book, on the
I had hoped to get it published, but it's a lot more
than I had thought. I can see why you published your
own book. (Although I
still say if anyone ever published your website as a
book, I'd buy it! ...
I did buy the book you published, as well).
Anyway, I'm drifting from the point. I just wanted to
let you know it was
there (in hopes that you'll pass it on). It is still
worth all the work I
put into it if people use it.
I'll mention it in my newsletter.
***Teaching boyfriend's 15 year-old Deaf son
<<Hi Dr. Vicars,
I have enjoyed your website and your newsletters. About a year ago I became
the stepmom to the son of my boyfriend when he received custody. Troy is 15
and profoundly deaf. I have been attending ASL classes for about 6 months
now and am slowly learning ASL (I'm not a visual learner, so this has been a
challenging endeavor!). Troy helps me practice and he is a very strict
My problem is that Troy's reading is at approximately a grade 2-3 level. At
first I thought that he may have a learning disability in this area. But, I
have since discovered that reading was not a priority in the former school
he attended (grade 1-9). If the student became frustrated they would just
leave them be. He has been treated as though he is slow and believe me that
couldn't be further from the truth.
Troy now wants to learn to read. His main motivation is so that he can get
his learner's license. His father and I want his to learn to read to help
him deal with a hearing world. I am wondering about the best way to do it. I
have been using some of the lessons on your website, but in reverse. Meaning
that I sign to him and he writes to me and I write to him and he signs to
me. I am finding that this is a very slow way to teach him. We also have the
close captioning turned on the T.V., but Troy complains that it is too fast.
I have also used primary readers, but Troy feels they are for babies and
resents having to use them. When I request, his teacher will send home
worksheets on occasion, but again they are for 7 year olds. Is there another
method that is more interesting that you could suggest?
Each child is different and no one system will work for every child...but
since you asked me for my advice in your situation here is what I'd do:
Inform him that there will be no TV for the next week.
Then that night or the next day take him to a mega-bookstore. (The kind with
a huge magazine section.) Tell him you will be there for a couple hours and
that he should look around and find something interesting to read--then shoo
him off to look on his own.
After a while find him and let him know that you are willing to purchase a
few magazines for him and you want him to pick two or three different
magazines that he thinks is cool.
After he picks out a few magazines...walk him over to the comic book section
and repeat the process. Have him pick out a few comics. (I recommend Marvel
or DC.) Check to make sure the comics do not say "Suggested for Mature
Readers" or anything like that.
Then take him home and keep that TV off. [The other day I turned off the TV
at our house. After the initial gnashing of teeth the kids went to the long
unused game closet and got out a game and played together for 3 hours!] Make
sure he has a good reading light near his bed and a place to keep or store
You might consider making him work earlier that day (sweep the
sidewalk--whatever). Then AFTER he does the work let him know that because
he did a good job you want to reward him with a trip to the bookstore. Do
not tell him about it before he does the work. He is to do the work because
you say so not because of some expected reward. The bookstore trip is after
the fact but in his mind will attach value to the reading material.
Then within a day YOU ask him if you can borrow one of his magazines. Let
him out of the corner of his eye see you devouring it. Let him see you
thinking something is cool. Suppose it is a bike magazine or a knife
magazine...point out two knives and indicate that you think one is more cool
that the other...then have a discussion about the merits (weight,
Get him hooked on the fact that reading let's him access information about
things he is interested in.
Then as time goes on you will see which magazines get dog eared. Those will
be the ones to purchase. Make a trip once a month and encourage him to try a
different magazine each month. Continue to purchase the ones that he reads
and drop the others off your list. Find new or used books on cool topics
like "magic." Whatever hobby he has...take him to the library (get him his
own card) and walk him through the process of finding that topic on the
shelves. Let HIM do the typing on the electronic catalog (Subject Keyword:
MAGIC), you sit off to the side and make him the main player. He touches the
keyboard--you don't. He pulls the book from the shelf. He fills in the
library card application--not you. You might have to look at the application
and find the important words and write them down on a separate paper as a
guide...but he does the actual application.
Then take him every two weeks to return his books and check out new ones.
Make it a ritual and eventually it will become an awesome habit.
Another bit of advice. Purchase some board games that involve words. Then
take the time to play them with your son. My wife didn't start speaking and
using English until after age 5. She was basically non-verbal for her first
five years and missed a huge language window. But would you believe Belinda
just finished her Bachelors in Creative writing and is now on her way toward
completing a masters degree? Why? Because her mother modeled reading and
played Scrabble with her constantly while she was growing up.
Make the games fun for your son. Cook up some pizza or whatever his favorite
food is and get out the game and play it while eating. Associate the "good
food" with the desired activity. Then save desert for after the game. Make
sure to let him win at least half the time. If it is no challenge for you
then let him move two times for every one time of yours (or some other
approach that makes you work for it).
Enjoy the process. Realize he may never become a "skilled reader." That's
okay. He is still a terrific kid and might end up being a wonderful
carpenter, ASL teacher, mechanic, or any other useful work he decides to
pursue that fits his strengths and abilities.
*** Motivated Student
In a message dated 3/1/2005 2:48:16 PM Pacific Standard Time,
Hey Bill I have been reading your newsletter for a
number of months now and am very impressed with everything you
know and the advice you give. I am a student at Granada Hills
Charter High School and in an ASL "2" class. My teacher is the
most wonderful person I've met and the best teacher I've had.
She is very well known in the Deaf community and was the Sign
Language teacher in the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus". Her name is
Kelly Macaluso. Anyway I started learning Sign Language in the
4th grade and am zealous about it now that I am taking classes
on it. I've been going to local Deaf events and meeting a lot
of nice people. At my school there are about 40 Deaf students
and I've made friends with quite a few of them. I was reading
an article the other week and it was talking about how a lot of
kids are learning Sign only because they think it's an easy
class(I don't know where they got that idea). They say they
don't want to have to do accents and things but from my
experience ASL is a lot more difficult. The article also
mentioned how maybe 2 or 3 of these students are interested in
becoming teachers for the Deaf or interpreters. Since every now
and then we have a substitute teacher who doesn't know sign I
usually interpret for my friend who is hard of hearing in our
class. Because of this experience and the arrogance of my
peers, I was seriously thinking about making ASL a part of my
career. Either teaching Deaf children or becoming an
interpreter. My teacher has told me how much I have excelled at
ASL and at the beginning of the semester I was doing ASL "3"
work. I am planning on taking ASL and ASL interpreting classes
at Pierce College, would you recommend any side studying I can
do now? Any online courses or something for my computer? Maybe
even one of your lessons...I'm not sure. Thank you very much and
I am looking forward to your reply.
Visit the various public libraries in your area and see what they
have. You might find only a few books...or you might hit the
jackpot and find a video series. You might even be able to talk the
head librarian into ordering a video set for you. Or ask him or her
about "interlibrary loan." You might be able to borrow books/videos
from "all over."
Keep attending Deaf Events. When you meet people that are "Deaf
Event Planners" ask to be placed on their email lists so you can be
notified of any events coming up.
You might be interested in ordering one of my "self-testing" CDs to
see if they match your learning style. If you like the first one
could order more (home-made but people seem to like them).
You could contact the college and check into "Early Enrollment"
policies. You might be able to begin taking college classes early.
If they say "no," you could contact the instructor and ask if he or
she needs a teacher's assistant to pass out papers, straighten
Order the biggest ASL dictionary you can find and go through it
systematically. People try to tell you that you can't learn ASL
from a dictionary...that may be true but you sure as heck can
expedite your vocabulary acquisition and speed the rate at which you
recognize signs that you would formerly have missed.
Dr. Vicars (Bill)
***The sign for "hard nosed"
In a message dated 3/3/2005 3:05:18 PM Pacific Standard Time,
Hi Mr. Vicars,
My wife & I are beginning ASL students @ Interpreting
Services for the Deaf in Memphis, TN., & we're having a
blast! We both truly enjoy your website & use it
extensively to help us in our class. We're not registered in
ASL University, but I wondered if it would be ok to ask for
your help with a sign in my textbook (Vista - Signing
Naturally by Ken Mikos, Ella Mae Lentz & Cheri Smith). I'm
having a hard time finding the answer. Here's the
sign.....the right V-hand, fingers bent, palm left is
positioned 4 or 5 inches in front of the face & then comes
back & touches the bridge of the nose. Any help you provide
will be greatly appreciated.
That sign means "strict" or "hard nosed."
*** ASL PowerPoint's
In a message dated 3/3/2005 12:50:19 PM Pacific Standard Time,
Hi, Bill. It has been a long time since I have written
to you. I took your Linguistics class through Distance
Learning when you were at Lamar.
How do you like Sacramento? I have not been there in
years and imagine that it has changed quite a bit since
my parents lived there.
I have a couple of questions for you and hope that you
can take a minute or two to answer them for me. the
first one has to do with a classifier. One of the
classifiers on page 122 of the teacher's book of Signing
Naturally is DCL "dribbles out". I have never heard of
this and was curious as to what it means.
Also, you have said that you have many power point
slides that you use to teach with when in a no voice
class. Would you be willing to market them? I am
teaching high school students ASL for their second
language requirements. I teach most of my classes
through Distance Learning. I stand in front of a camera
and they watch me on their TV screens. I teach students
in 8 different schools in three separate counties. Your
slides would be a tremendous help!
Thank you for your time, Bill!
Good to hear from you. I love Sacramento. The people are great and
the trees are plentiful. I've got terrific coworkers and I bike to
work most mornings along a beautiful river trail.
In response to your question about "dribble out" -- the sign for
dribble generally uses a "4" handshape. A "DCL" is a "descriptive
classifier." You use the "4" hand to describe how something
As far as using my PowerPoints first I've got to work out a
number of copyright issues. I get most of my pictures (for
in-class use) using Google's "image" search (If you haven't used it
before, try it, you'll be amazed.)
Then I do some copying and pasting and voila -- slides.
Unfortunately, I'm sure many of those pictures are covered by
copyrights. So I'm in the process of taking a thousand
pictures to which I will own the copyright and will be in a position
to hand out like candy. I'll send out an email when the slides
*** Topic: ASL Grammar: How do you sign "learning on the
In a message dated 3/3/2005 4:14:37 PM Pacific Standard Time,
In a message dated 3/3/2005 8:15:29 AM Pacific Standard
Time, email@example.com writes:
I'm LEARN LEARN (!) the
story in lesson one....when I tell people my
instructor is B-I-L-L V-I-C-A-R-S, how do I tell
them I'm learning on the internet? I looked up some
signs, and get the feeling that I should NOT say the
I LEARN LEARN SIGN ON
I'm thinking maybe I
should use a different preposition...the linguist in
me says that maybe I should use BY or something
You should drop the sign "on" -- the concept is understood
without using a preposition.
Or you could sign:
I INTERNET LEARN LEARN SIGN.
Or you could do:
I LEARN LEARN SIGN, HOW? INTERNET.
The "by" approach just might work. For that concept you'd
sign "through." Some might question that, but I think many
would accept it.
p.s. I just had a one hour discussion about this with a couple of
colleagues. One was adamant that
"I LEARN SIGN THROUGH INTERNET" was a
good way to express it. The other was adamant that the best way was:
LEARN LEARN SIGN, HOW? INTERNET."
I guess it just goes to show that there is more than one way to sign
"A Hypermedia Learning Tool
for Ethiopian Sign Language"
In a message
dated 4/22/2005 3:49:37 PM Pacific Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Dear Dr. how
My name is Endale Asefa from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. I am an MSc
student of Information Science.
By now I am working on my thesis in title "A Hypermedia Learning Tool for
Ethiopian Sign Language". My aim is
to create a prototype of hypermedia learning software for hearing people
around health centers like
hospitals. To do this I need to identify users need by questionaires. This
is mainly to identify the specific
signs of Ethiopian Sign Language that deaf people can use when served by
hospitals. Note that the main aim
of this research is to minimise communication gap between hearing and deaf
people and helping the deaf
in the mentioned area.
Now my question to you is can you send me or tell me a site to get an
already tested material (questionaire)
that can help me in assesing communication gap and user needs please? I am
asking you this becuse my
advisor has told me that it is a must to have an already tested material. If
not I may not be allowed
to do this research.
For your information there is no IT project regarding Ethiopian Sign
Language up to now. I am starting it
and I do have great plan to continue simillar researches on the area in the
future. I hope you will
help me a lot.
Thank you in advance
[I responded to Endale's email with some suggestions for online resources
and a book that I thought might be helpful. He responded:
In a message
dated 4/22/2005 9:48:39 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, email@example.com
Dear Dr, Thank
you for you fast response.
But there is
no system in our country to purchase electronic books and I have checked
some time that there is no hard copy of Sign Language books in the book
shops of the country. The Ethiopian National Association of the DEAF has some
books. I will check if they have this book. Other wise, I will be lucky if
you can send me the portion of the book regarding my work, (if you have it
in Electronic Form).
If you want the
The Signs of
Language Revisited : An Anthology in Honor of Ursula Bellugi and Edward
Klima book, I recommend you use Amazon.com to order the it since it is
not in electronic format. Here is a link:
Survey on a Shoestring: A
Manual for Small-Scale Language Survey
0-88312-644-3 Year of publication
Shows how to
conduct sociolinguistic surveys on a small scale without access to funding
sometimes available to national language planners.
train people with little background in social research methodology. Spells
out how those primarily concerned with local languages can learn to make
informed decisions about language choice at local levels. Provides
invaluable background on bilingualism and language use and attitudes. Shows
how bilingualism develops and is maintained in different situations.
Describes several methods for testing dialect comprehensibility in
considerable detail, and gives advantages and disadvantages of each. It
combines academic sophistication with realism and is a major contribution
for conducting sociolinguistic surveys in general.
Blair served as a language survey specialist in South Asia. He received an
M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1982.
In a message
dated 4/22/2005 10:24:43 PM Pacific Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
But I don't
have credit card. Any way thank you.
Bill's message to subscribers:
HOW ABOUT IT FOLKS? I'm asking one or two of you
to step up an sponsor Endale.
All it will cost you is $12 for the survey plus postage and handling.
Use the above information to order it and then have it sent to him. If
you plan on doing it...contact him at
email@example.com to make sure confirm that he still needs it.
(Hey, and if you are in an especially giving mood, I'd love a copy of it
too, heh. See my contact information at the lifeprint.com site).
Endale's postal address is:
Addis Ababa University
Well that's all for this time. Take care and best wishes in your ASL