'Signing Time' Not Just Falling on Deaf Ears

This week, Nick Jr. launched Signing Time, a new interstitial musical series teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to preschoolers.

Developed by and starring musician Rachel Coleman, Signing Time teaches kids how to sign words related to feelings, family members and physical activities. Online videos will also teach words for farm animals and the entire alphabet. The program is based on Coleman’s successful video series of the same name.

But the goals of Signing Time go far beyond just helping kids who can communicate with kids who can’t. Coleman, whose daughter was born deaf, claims that children who learn to sign have higher IQ scores, are better adjusted, and read at an earlier age.

Coleman also recommends signing as a way to communicate with infants as young as 6 months old, and as a breakthrough communication tool for children with developmental delays or special needs.

At the same time, another online effort is helping deaf kids build their ASL vocabularies. The Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf (CCSD) just launched what they call the first kid's animated ASL dictionary, located at www.aslphabet.com. On the site, a magician and a rabbit demonstrate signs for and definitions of approximately 100 words. The CCSD hopes new funding will help expand the list to 1000 words or more.

Will these efforts inspire more programs teaching ASL? Will the deaf eventually get their own Dora? While we’re waiting for that answer, a renewed interest in sign language education is coming in loud and clear.

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