Learning to Communicate

Posted by Stacy Eldred on

Shocked and overwhelmed. That’s how we felt when our daughter Alexandra was diagnosed with a severe / profound hearing loss. She was 13 months old.

When life throws out an unexpected obstacle our primal instincts are to fight or flee. I chose to fight and embraced this challenge as another experience of being a mother. First, we had to tackle basic communication. I wanted to quickly and efficiently learn to interact, educate and share experiences with her.

As part of a community, I wanted Alexandra to communicate with others in the hearing and deaf/hard-of-hearing world as well. I spent hours researching our options.

My choices boiled down to:

  • SEE - Signing Exact English (uses proper English sentence structure and grammar)
  • ASL - American Sign Language (uses words and short phrases rather than a full sentence structure) and
  • PSL - Pidgin Sign Language (a combination of ASL and SEE which is used primarily with older adult signers)

I chose to teach my child SEE (Signing Exact English). I saw many advantages with SEE that I felt outweighed the more mainstream ASL (American Sign Language).

  • For me, it was important that SEE used proper English and the vocabulary included the past, present and future tenses.
  • The sentence structure in SEE is exactly the same as the written and spoken English language.

I felt that these two factors held the greatest opportunity for Alexandra to develop her speaking, writing and comprehension skills. Hands-down, this was the only option.

However, when I started researching learning tools for SEE, the options were almost non-existent; there were adult workshops held a few times a year and the SEE dictionary. When I chose SEE for my daughter, I had already started thinking about resources to make it easier for Alexandra to learn fully expecting that she would go on to a mainstreamed university education. Luckily, she had the opportunity to attend the Louisville Deaf Oral School, now part of the Heuser Hearing Institute, which has one of the best Deaf education programs in the country.

Alexandra is currently a student at the University of Louisville getting ready to graduate at the end of 2018.


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