Being my son’s company in his sign language study

Đào Tiến Mạnh I have come to understand that learning sign language is not only necessary but also sufficient for the full intellectual and cognitive development of deaf children.

The first time the teacher and a group of specialists came to my house, the Sign Language Interpreter asked me: “In daily life, when your son wants to express that he needs to drink water or milk or have something to eat, what does he do?” I replied that my son expressed his needs by coming closer to me, holding my hand and taking us to the place in which I put food or drink.
If I had to answer that question a second time, I would definitely be confident to say that now my son can express his needs well because we have been learning sign language to communicate with each other. For these daily activities, we find our communication easier and more fluent.

To me, learning Sign Language with my son is such a wonderful thing and it is so unfortunate for other Deaf children if they cannot access sign language.

Now I feel so confident thanks to sign language. I am no longer pessimistic as I was before, but instead I believe in my son’s ability to have an independent life, to do the things that other children do and to become a good citizen.

What makes me happier is that since learning sign language my son can not only identify things quickly and correctly but also his spoken language vocabulary has developed too. Though his pronunciation of words isn’t fully correct, by using hearing aids combined with lip reading and practicing each word several times he can still speak very well and there is no sign of spoken language loss as I thought might happen before joining IDEO. I am delighted and proud that I now know a second language – sign language. Sign language helps me to comprehend what my son expresses when he is unable to express himself in spoken language. This has made me become a communication facilitator between my son and other members of my family and with the people around us.

I remember the day that I discovered my son was born Deaf in both ears. I was completely depressed and disappointed, I cried a lot and I got upset whenever I thought about my son’s future – how would his life be if nobody could understand him and he was unable to hear or speak?

After my son received a hearing test of both ears which showed loss at 90 dB, it was suggested that he should use hearing aids to help him learn to speak. With this advice coming from both the doctor and other parents with deaf children, I bought him hearing aids and brought him to the Centre for supporting Children with disadvantages in Thai Nguyen for early intervention at the end of 2010. He was just 2 years old at that time.

In January 2013, the Center invited me to attend the Intergenerational Deaf Education Outreach (IDEO) Conference. The IDEO project was implemented to give support to Deaf children at the Center in Thai Nguyen, and the teachers at the Center along with the project’s specialists and staff visited my family and encouraged us to let my son join the project so that he could learn sign language. To be honest, at that point I had little faith in the project since it was so hard for me to buy my son hearing aids with the hope that he could speak and I could hear him calling “Mom”. What would happen to his spoken language study and ability if he learned sign language? Would it put an end to my dream? We worried a lot, but fortunately we didn’t refuse to join the IDEO project.

After the eight week course on every Sunday organized by IDEO in coordination with the Center, we, the parents were taught sign language. Thanks to the enthusiasm of all the teachers we learned many signs that help us to facilitate communication between our children and other family members. I have also learned sign language through the Family Supports Team’s lessons at home with my child. My signing has developed quickly which allows me to communicate with my child very well.
Since the days I began to learn Sign Language the tears runninging down my face on occasion are tears of happiness and faith. I have strong faith that my son will become self-confident and independent in his life.

I want to leave a gentle message to all the parents whose children are born Deaf. You shouldn’t be downhearted, but keep believing in good things, keep spending time with your child and let him learn sign language as soon as possible so that he can have full intellectual and cognitive development. Don’t miss this chance offered to your child; there is no doubt that your child can have a bright future just like other children.

I want to give sincere thanks to World Concern Organization’s IDEO project. I also want to show gratitude to all the teachers at the Centre for supporting Children with disadvantages in Thai Nguyen for their fantastic care, enthusiasm and tremendous support for my son’s sign language learning.

Ms. Lai Thi Nga, Dao Tien Manh’s mother, Thai Nguyen