Signing comes Alive!

Tonight, as I tucked Burke into bed, he asked me to sing him a song...usually we sing about trains, or buses but tonight I decided to do my homework practice from skillshop this week. We are learning to sign a song and have to do it in front of everyone in two days...eek! Our group will be signing The Star Spangled Banner...it's such a dramatic song with bombs bursting, red rockets glaring, bright stars and braveness. Awesome! I didn't think Burke would even like it or try to understand the song but of course, he proved me wrong again! I practiced the visual features of sign language and it totally made a difference. Burke really got into the song, he laughed and squealed with delight through most of it. It was so fun to see him really getting emotional about a song and connect to it...just like hearing people connect with the musical instruments or the beat, Burke connects with the modifications of the signs-hand movements, placement of the signs, the emphasis on different signs, duplication (one bomb vs two or three bombs bursting). Tonight, sign language really came alive for him! I can't wait to sing it again in the morning when he wakes up!


Let's Teach
and Pride
for BOTH
English and ASL,
ASL and English
Whichever comes first and naturally
to the parents and the child
Gerilee Gustason


100 Ways to Praise my child-

I really need to start being more specific in praising Burke. His transition into our summer routine and turning 4 yrs old has been tough for everyone! I realized, after some major frustration for all of us, that Burke really just is trying to communicate to us that he needs something. I want to be able to reinforce all of his really great, positive behaviors but was struggling on how to do this while using SEE. I don't think "good work" and "you are smart" are cutting it anymore  So, I'm hoping to learn how to sign a lot of these positive phrases to help Burke feel important and valued in a different way...

FYI: Yes, some of these lines are cheesy but hey, you never know when they might come in handy (with the exception of "Now you're flying"!

Wow * Way to go * Super * You’re special * Outstanding *Excellent * Great * Good * Neat * Well Done * Remarkable * I knew you could do it * I’m proud of you * Fantastic * Superstar *Nice work * Looking good * You’re on top of it * Beautiful * Now you’re flying * You’re catching on * Now you’ve got it * You’re incredible * Bravo * You’re fantastic * Hurray for you * You’re on the target * You’re on your way * How nice * How smart * Good job * That’s incredible * Hot dog * Dynamite * Your beautiful * You’re unique * Nothing can stop you now * Good for you * I like you * You’re darling * You’re a winner * Remarkable job * Beautiful Work * Spectacular * You’re spectacular * Your precious
* Great discovery * You’ve discovered the secret * You figured it out * Fantastic job * Hip hip hurray * Bingo * Magnificent * Terrific * You’re important * You’re sensational * Super work * Creative
job * Super job * Fantastic job * Exceptional performance * You’re a real trooper * What a great kid * Phenomenal * You are responsible * You are exciting * You learned it right * What an imagination * What a good listener * You are fun * You tried hard * You care * Beautiful sharing * Outstanding performance * You’re a good friend * I trust you * You’re important * You mean a lot to me * You make me happy * You belong * You’ve got a friend * You make me laugh * You brighten my day * I respect you * You
mean the world to me * That’s correct * You’re a joy * You’re a treasure * You’re wonderful * You’re perfect * Awesome * A+ job * You’re A-OK * You’re my buddy * You’re growing up * You made
my day * That’s the best * I am impressed * I Love You *
100 Ways to Praise a Child Link


Rationale, Prevalence, and Comparison of SEE to other systems

Prior to the early 1970s, educational programs for children with a hearing loss were “oral-only” (i.e. adults did not sign when speaking to students with hearing loss) (Stedt & Moores, 1990) and teachers of the deaf did not sign at school. About that time, when the first author was a student teacher, sign slowly seeped into use as an educational tool in “total communication” classrooms. American Sign Language (ASL) was beginning to be offered at the college level for credit, and the concept of “educational interpreter” had not been developed as yet. In most programs, the sign used was not specifically delineated as a particular language or system, as ASL had only recently been recognized as a language and forms of manually-coded English had just been invented (Gustason, 1990).
            As an outgrowth of “the continuing concern about low levels of literacy and other academic skills attained by most deaf students” and “an attempt to teach deaf children the language that would be used in schools” (Marschark, Schick, & Spencer, 2006, p.9) manually-coded invented sign systems were developed. Signing Exact English (Gustason, Pfetzing, & Zawolkow,1973), the sign system of focus in this paper is one such system.  The first manual English system, Seeing Essential English or SEE 1, (referred to today as Morphemic Sign Systems or MSS) was designed by David Anthony, a deaf teacher of deaf adults, with input from a team of deaf educators and the parents of deaf children (Gustason, 1990).  The other members of the team viewed SEE 1 (MSS) as inadequate. As a result, Gerilee Gustason, a deaf woman and educator, and other members of the original SEE 1 (MSS) team developed Signing Exact English (Gustason, Pfetzing, & Zawolkow, 1973), initially referred to as SEE 2, but now simply as SEE.  Gustason (1990) delineated the rationale for the invention of SEE as not only due to dissatisfaction with the educational achievement of children with a hearing loss and a desire to use the English language used educationally, but also due to the increasing knowledge of English language development of hearing children as well as research as to the inability of speechreading to access the grammar of spoken English. At the time of the creation of SEE, research documented that deaf children acquired a smaller vocabulary than their hearing peers and that “deaf students’ grasp of the morphological and syntactical rules of English was weak and without a clear pattern of development, in contrast to that of hearing children” (p. 108). Gustason explained that “many word endings were not visible (e.g., interest, interesting, interests, and interested are nearly impossible to distinguish) and “some involve hard to hear sounds” an issue that cannot be resolved through speech reading since according to the research she reviewed, “many bright and otherwise capable deaf children caught only 5 percent of what was said through speechreading” (p. 109). To address the need to visually represent words fully and accurately, SEE was designed to correspond with the number of morphemes of English (Luetke-Stahlman, 1998). Signs are provided for root words and affix markers (e.g., re-, un-, -ing, -ity, -ness, and so forth). Different signs exist for different words such that it is possible to sign electric, electrical, electrician, electricity and nonelectrical. Both the root word and all affixes are made visually obvious. The hope for this system was that signing English would increase the language, reading, and writing abilities of children who were deaf or hard of hearing (Luetke-Stahlman, 1990).  The same author expanded on this concept in the forward of the revised SEE dictionary (Gustason & Zawolkow, 1993) saying, “SEE unlocks for deaf children what PSE [Pidgin Signed English] cannot: figurative English, authentic English, genuine English, exact English.” (p. I).
The basic similarities and differences between SEE and other invented sign systems and ASL are outlined in Table 1. MSS, SEE and the third manually-coded system, Signed English (SE) (Bornstein, 1974) are both similar and dissimilar in ways that warrant clarification. Users of all three systems speak while they sign. They also represent English semantics and syntax via signs, but to different degrees. MSS users attempt to sign almost every syllable of every word that they say. For example, a word such as motorcycle has four sign parts in MSS.  Users of the SE system can sign some of the morphology of English, but to a limited degree since it SE represents only 14 signed morphological markers. For example, to say and sign the word unworkable, the user is constrained in SE and can only sign, “not work,” because SE does not have a sign for the morpheme: un. In contrast, users of SEE can chose among 94 morphological markers to make English morphology visual to a deaf student. Since SEE users base the signed component of their utterances on the number of morphemes (i.e., the smallest unit of meaning) of a word, a SEE user would manually use three signs for unworkable, one for each morpheme: un, work, and able.  As Schick and Moeller (1992) explained, SEE “attempts to represent English literally and it purports to follow a strict criterion of one sign for one English free morpheme or ‘word’” (p. 319). They went on to note that SEE
            follows English semantics and does not borrow from ASL semantics, unlike some other MCE [manually-coded English] systems. For example, the English word run would appear as the same sign in the following phrases even through a different sign would be used in ASL for each one: “a home run”; “a runny nose”; “run for office”; and “a run on the bank” (p. 319).
Both MSS and SEE are based on a “two out of three” rule: If a word is spelled with the same letters and sounds the same, it is signed in the same way even if the meaning of the two words differ. Thus, the word run is signed consistently in SEE no matter the meaning. The SEE uses the manual features common to  all sign languages and systems as was first explained by the authors in the first edition of the SEE dictionary (Gustason, Phetzing, & Zawolkow, 1973). The “two out of three” rule is not utilized in SE or Pidgin Signed English (PSE). Instead, when English words have different meanings, they are usually signed in different ways. For more detailed information as to the commonalities and differences of signed language and systems see Stewart and Luetke-Stahlman (1998). 


The Community of Friendship

This is FB correspondence from a dear friend of mine who has committed to coming along side of us on our journey to learn SEE. Friendship is a beautiful gift!

A: Our book is finally here! Now onto SEE!

Me: Yeah! I'm so excited!!! Thank you for investing into our family and communicating with Burke, I couldn't ask for a better gift! :)

A: Hey - I am investing in MY family too. Damon looked up and SEE'd: "A trillion is a lot" all by himself - we're learning English all over again!

The best support families can have are others who are willing to take initiative and make a committed effort to learn a new way to communicate! Not only does learning SEE benefit our family but it can also positively impact other children who may benefit from a new way to "speak" English!