Hearing vs. Deaf, A guest blog by Zaneta Barton

Hearing vs. Deafness, this is a subject most don’t think about until they have to.  I also was guilty of not knowing the difference.  That all changed six years ago when my son, Zy’Kheus, was a year and a half old and was not speaking any words. (Even something simple like “ma ma”. ) Zy-Kheus consistently had double ear infections and the pediatrician would only give him medicine which didn’t seem to improve his condition.  After seeking out an ENT on my own, I was told what his problem was.  Since his ears were filled with fluid, his hearing was like going under water to listen to someone.  The problem was discovered.  My son is considered now deaf and has a device to help him hear. We started him in speech therapy.
 Zy’Kheus ended up with a great speech therapist.  This is were I discovered my interest for sign language. My son picked up sign very quickly and signed quite well (he still does).  After learning a few signs myself, I decided to learn more and signed up for classes in 2008.  Being around Deaf people opened up a whole new world and for me a new way of thinking.  Since joining sign classes and being around Deaf people,  I now understand and know so much more about my son’s situation.  I am overjoyed to be a part of this community.
Now I have another dilemma.  My daughter, Za’Ryah who is 18 months and is not speaking many words.  She is due to have her speech and hearing tested later this month.  My issue is with the  comments  people are making.  I have been teaching her to sign since birth. Now I keep hearing from some people that sign language is getting in the way of her speech.  I know this is incorrect, but those in the hearing world sees it differently. I will not stop teaching my daughter a language she can use to communicate.  How can I ease some of the pressures of  others with their comments of non-understanding that ASL is a language?
I look forward to all of you sharing.
Note from Louise:  It is a pleasure when people who are friends to SIGNING FAMILIES ask to contribute a post so that others can learn different points of view or about resources. Zaneta’s blog is written from her heart and I thank her for this post.

13 thoughts on “Hearing vs. Deaf, A guest blog by Zaneta Barton

  1. Hi Zaneta! Gosh – are people still making that claim? My mother has worked in Special Ed for nearly 14 years now. When my first son was born, 12 years ago, he had no vision in his right eye. We had to get a prosthetic eye created for him. After the surgeries my mom suggested that I teach my son to Sign. In the event that he lost the other eye… he would need to know Braille and she thought that also knowing ASL would be good for him – mentally, psychologically, etc. She wanted me to empower him. My parents are very, very bright so who was I to disagree with my mama, eh?

    At 6 months I began teaching him to Sign. He picked up on the signs right away and by the age of two, he was speaking in paragraph form AND signing. I was a nanny at that time and had a waiting list because other parents watched him and wanted to know… What was I doing so right? 🙂 I would sign and speak. Sign and speak. I always told him the word, clearly, AND showed the sign. So he got both. He ended up being bi-lingual (so to say) by age two: speaking in two ways: verbally AND with his hands. Now, really? When is being bi-lingual or tri-lingual EVER a bad thing? It’s not. It’s wonderful. Keep up the good work, mom! (PS – My son is currently taking all Honors classes in Jr. High – yep! He’s doing just fine.)

    1. Hi Shara Thank you for sharing! Its people like your mom and Ms Sattler that are helping steer us into the right direction.

      What you did with your son I have been doing with my daughter. You realize tho that so many people dont view ASL or sign language as “a language”. YOU keep up the good work! You’ve made my day. So very happy to hear how well your son is doing.
      Thank you.


    1. Lindsey
      Thank you so much for you comment. I will keep it as I continue to teach my daughter.
      Thank you.


  2. Like you, I have run into these comments as well. I started to teach my daughter sign when she was 4 months old (when we started giving her baby cereal) and we continued consistently until she was almost two. She picked up sign right away, and like Shara’s son would speak and sign her answers to us by the time she was two. Her vocabulary is phenomenal, and I credit that to the fact that she learned to speak in two languages. She is 5 now, but we still sign, and she has loved helping me teach her little brother.

    We taught my son sign starting when he was 6 months old. He will be two this week and his speaking has just started to take off within the past couple of weeks. Up until then, he was a babbler and a signer. Thank goodness he could sign and communicate with us in that way, or we would have had many frustrating moments!

    As for easing some of the comments, you can always compare it to something they may be able to relate to more easily – ask if they took French or Spanish in school and if that prevented them from speaking English. You can also remind them that there are many households that teach both English and a second language (such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, etc) right from birth and that child learns both together. That may make them stop and think about what they are assuming and what they are saying to you.

    I guess when it comes to other people understanding (or not understanding) how you parent, you just have to shrug it off. You know what is best for your children and your family, and you just need to keep doing what you know is the right thing for them!

  3. Nice blog cousin. BTW…Trevor has been signing since he was six months old and he speaks very well at 2. People simply need to stop judging. Signing opens up a whole new world and a level of acceptance of those that are different from us and children need to learn to accept, and build relationships with others that are different from them. That’s what’s wrong with the world today…too much segregation (still) based on ignorance. Love you and keep up the good work.

  4. yayyyy mommy..im so proud of you and all your success in sign language. i guess you get your writing from me HA! anyways i appreciate the story..its awesome. also congrats on your first blog..good job keep up the good work. by the way i like deaf people because they’re different and really friendly…..okay thats it..love you bunches!

  5. I can’t believe that in NA there are still such narrow-minded people… oh wait, yes, I guess I can. People who make such claims are themselves uneducated in this matter. There are even studies that prove that learning ASL is done in the same cortex of the brain for Deaf, substantiating the “real language” claim. As far as children learning languages… my friend is American married to a Spaniard, living in a part of Spain that speaks 2 languages… Spanish and Catalan. Her son didn’t speak until he was almost 3, at which point he was using all three languages and using them appropriately. One time she said to him “Say that to Michelle in Catalan”… he wouldn’t, because he knew I didn’t use that language… also, later on he went to school in Spain, but it was a German language school. That’s four languages! The time to learn language is when you are young. So Zaneta, you are perfectly fine and on the right track with your beautiful little children!

  6. Awesome read.

    WE taught our daughter sign at 6 months and she started signing back at 8 months. By 11 months she was speaking. It definitely did not hold back her speech development. If anything, i feel it sped it up.

    Sign is just another “spoken” language, like English, Mandarin and yes, music. It’s important we give our children as many advantages we can, especially with communication.

  7. I don’t have deaf children. but I do have deaf and hard of hearing family members ( I rarely see them). So if you don’t mind, I’d like to make a comment.When we lived in Germany, My husband and I had an army friend who married a German woman. When they had their baby, they decided to teach her English and German. The dad spoke only English to her while her mom spoke only German. I thought is was amazing that a baby could learn and understand both at such a young age. When we had our first son, he always had ear infections and eventually had tubes put in.However; he still spent about 2 or 3 years in early childhood classes with speech therapy. They taught him words in ASL and it was quite helpful and intriguing for me. After talking around, many people agreed that a child can do very well learning many languages when they are young. They function to the fullest and have no problems what so ever in speaking English or whatever language they are learning. When my daughter was about 2, we started learning sign language at our church. She stopped learning but clearly remembers most of what she learned, She speaks English very well. Now, I’m taking the American Sign Language Studies. I’ve learned so much from these courses and from the deaf people. I feel that doctors and hearing people are convinced that deaf people are “broken” and kids must be taught English. Parents who end up having a deaf child usually only hear what the doctors say and don’t think for themselves or explore different views and options. If the hearing thinks it’s ok to teach a child more than one language, I see no reason what so ever to not teach a child ASL.. Hearing people don’t know, never heard of, or are very uninformed about ASL. People are afraid of what they don’t know and understand. What I am saying is….You go right on a head teaching both languages! The world will eventually learn on their own that ASL is a beautiful language. You know your children the best, not anyone else. You are responsible for your children, not anyone else. You have made a choice, and I add a good choice, to teach your children ASL. They are not physically, emotionally, or mentally harmed by learning 2 languages, in fact, they are better off than most kids.They can’t make you stop teaching your kids after all isn’t that what parents are suppose to do anyway? You keep up the good work with your kids, and ignore those who don’t agree. Just chalk them up to being misinformed idiots!

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