ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library | 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 norephinephrine impaired)
●  ***Dream 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"
●  *** ASL PowerPoint's???
●  *** Topic:  ASL Grammar: How do you sign "learning on the internet."
●  ***Topic:  "A Hypermedia Learning Tool for Ethiopian Sign Language"

ASL University Newsletter

***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.                      
Hello Stephanie,
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 (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). 
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
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 lacking.
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 her medication.
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 teacher's lesson.
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 time.
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 communities."
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 response:
"Offices that can be used as online classrooms"
Office characteristics:

-  The wall space behind the teacher's office desk area consists of an ideal background for video recording and broadcasting.
-  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 recognizable video.
-  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, dorka7777@ writes:

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.

Best regards,
Hi Dorota,
Sure...ask your questions.

In a message dated 2/9/2005 11:00:41 AM Pacific Standard Time, Dorota writes:
Dear Dr.Vicars,
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 language.
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 this?
I was also wondering about rhyming, I mean, does it provide any clue for the Deaf students when they read?
(Especially when they are readers-beginners.)
Do you think it is important to teach pronunciation of English as a foreign language from the beginning?
For the Deaf in the U.S.,   English is a second language. What kind of materials are used by the teachers when
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.)
Best regards,


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.

The same 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 phonological information. 

My responses 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?

Response I 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 school environment.


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?

Response:  Unfortunately 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.

Quite 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.

That way the student would simultaneously:

1.  Have access to the concept in a real life setting via true-to life video

2.  Have access to the visual language sign for the concept

3.  Have access to the English word for the concept

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 including:

1.  An extended explanation of the concept

2.  Definitions

3.  Examples of usage

4.  Variations

5.  Links to more information


After 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.

The VR (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

In a message dated 2/9/2005 6:52:41 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Dear Dr. Vicars,
Thank you very much for answering my questions.
I 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) 
So I 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...)
The 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, please?
Hypothetically, if you were to start learning Slovak language (Dobry vecer = Good evening) would you feel you need (want) to know how it is pronounced?
In a 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?
These 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.
I felt very excited when you kindly sent me your first e-mail: Hi Dorota, Sure...ask your questions. --Bill
And I was more than happy to find your e-mail with thoughtfully answered questions this morning.
While 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 advance. 
I wish you all the best every day. 
Yours gratefully, 

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 or playing 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 cognition.
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, writes:
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 promote his
severely delayed speech and so that we can communicate.  Do you know of a
comprehensive dictionary for use with children?  Through internet and
dictionary searches, I have yet to find signs for yogurt or block (noun).
As a beginner trying to put together a 'dictionary' for my son, I am

Many thanks,
Pam C.
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.
My suggestions:
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.
Dr. Vicars


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.

Dear _______,

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 plans.

First thing to do is to realize there is an extreme amount of variety amongst signers. 
In the Deaf community, some signing styles are more accepted than others.
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 styles). 
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 their hands.
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.
Take care.

In a message dated 2/18/2005 2:54:49 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
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.


Blakey (LeAnne)
There are many factors involved. Many more than could be done justice in an email message. For a full discussion, check out the book:
Schirmer, B. R. (1994). Language and literacy development in children who are deaf. New York, Toronto, New York: Merrill.
You can order it via
If after reading the book you happen to have questions I'd be happy to respond to specific items (time permitting).
Dr. Vicars

In a message dated 2/18/2005 7:38:10 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Dear Dr. Vicars,

My daughter is taking ASL. She needs to have things repeated exactly
because she is unable to negotiate small differences. Which is why I
LOVE your website. The pictures are very clear and informative, you
always look friendly (except the signs where you are supposed to look
angry or disgusted) and consistent with what she is learning in class.
But when I bought an ASL dictionary for her, I found small but confusing
differences. So... do you have, or can you recommend, a book that is
basically a printed version of your on-line dictionary, with real-person
photos ( as opposed to illustrations that aren't always clear)?

Thank you!

Joan Niertit
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.
Dr. Vicars

In a message dated 2/17/2005 5:01:22 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dr. Vicars,

           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:
DURING THERE 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 off 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 some more.... 
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 view.

*** ASL potty training helper

In a message dated 3/4/2005 9:14:10 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hi again!

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 financially draining
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.

Hello Teresa,
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 taskmaster.

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?

Thank you,

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 his magazines.
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, throw-ability, price).
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, writes:

Dear Bill,

      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 desks, etc.
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.
Good luck.
Dr. Vicars (Bill)

***The sign for "hard nosed"

In a message dated 3/3/2005 3:05:18 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

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.
                                                                Thank you,
                                                   Todd & Michelle Rosamond
That sign means "strict" or "hard nosed."

*** ASL PowerPoint's
In a message dated 3/3/2005 12:50:19 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
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! 
Take care,
Lynn Edwards 
Hi Lynn,
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 dribbles out.
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 are ready.

*** Topic:  ASL Grammar: How do you sign "learning on the internet."

In a message dated 3/3/2005 4:14:37 PM Pacific Standard Time, BillVicars writes:

In a message dated 3/3/2005 8:15:29 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Hello again!
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 following:
I'm thinking maybe I should use a different preposition...the linguist in me says that maybe I should use BY or something similar...
You should drop the sign "on" -- the concept is understood without using a preposition.
Or you could sign:
Or you could do:
(Rhetorical question.)
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:
I guess it just goes to show that there is more than one way to sign something eh?

***Topic:  "A Hypermedia Learning Tool for Ethiopian Sign Language"

In a message dated 4/22/2005 3:49:37 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Dr. how are you-
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, writes:

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).

Ones again I want to say thank you.



__________________________________________________ wrote:

Endale: If you want the The Signs of Language Revisited : An Anthology in Honor of Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima book, I recommend you use to order the it since it is not in electronic format.  Here is a link:

Also, to investigate OTHER possible works, check out:

and look for tools or instruments that you feel may meet your needs.  You can order them if you'd like.  I found one that seems to really meet your needs and is very low cost for you:

See:  Survey on a Shoestring: A Manual for Small-Scale Language Survey by Frank Blair, PL 96, 1991, 152 pp., ISBN 0-88312-644-3 $12.00 

Survey on a Shoestring: A Manual for Small-Scale Language Survey

Frank Blair

Cover picture

Year of publication

Price: $12.00

Shows how to conduct sociolinguistic surveys on a small scale without access to funding sometimes available to national language planners.

Prepares to 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.

Frank D. 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, 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 him at 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 site).
Endale's  postal address is:

Endale Asefa
Addis Ababa University
P.O.Box 150283
Addis Ababa

Well that's all for this time. Take care and best wishes in your ASL endeavors.
Dr. Bill

American Sign Language University William Vicars