Anonymous asks:

I need some advice on how to communicate with neighbors who are deaf?

Two months ago a nice family moved in two doors down with children who can hear and parents who are deaf. My kids are 5 and 7, and their children seem to be about the same age.  How do I get to know this family better when we can't "speak" to each other? I don't know sign language although my kids know a few words from school. Are there some phrases in signs I may need to know first?  

Waiting at the bus stop with this family is a bit awkward.  And the mom seems nice, so I would like to get to know her better. Any ideas? I never had a deaf friend or knew anyone who was deaf and my age. Thanks.
In Topics: Outside the classroom, Parenting / Our Family, Speech or language impairment
> 60 days ago



Oct 19, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Hello Anonymous!  Thank you for writing to JustAsk!

 First, thank you for allowing me to discuss interactions between deaf and hearing.

First, it would be great if you and your family learn to sign!  This visual language is a wonderful way to bridge the communication gap between hearing and deaf.  Also, the children of these deaf adults (known as CODAs) will appreciate that you are learning their language, too!  Learning basic sign language can help this family acclimate to their new neighborhood simply by demonstrating that you are willing to learn a few signs to make them feel "at home" and welcome.  Bravo!

It may take you a little bit of time to feel comfortable to sign with this neighbor so it is perfectly acceptable to write to them on note paper and also to exchange emails or texts. People who are deaf are accustomed to writing to hearing people in restaurants, at work, doctors' offices, and with their children's friends.  Also, pantonmine is a good first start.  Don't be worried or nervous.  I can't think of any of my deaf friends who are impatient or mean to people who are putting forth effort to learn to communicate with sign language.  They are very appreciative and gracious.

Please note that American Sign Language (ASL) has a very specific word order, similar to French.  However, you will be fine signing with your neighbor in a form of sign language known as Pidgin Signed English.  This sign format uses English word order with ASL vocabulary.  It is common among hearing people who sign to a deaf friend, co-worker, relative, etc.

You asked about first words and phrases.  I would start by learning what is called the manual alphabet (ASL ABC's) and numbers in sign from 1-10.  Once you know this alphabet and numbers you can sign any word, email address, phone number, etc. to the parents.  This would be helpful when you exchange what time the children can play and need to be picked up.  Also, you can learn a few first phrases such as:

MY NAME___________________

MY HUSBAND'S/ WIFE's NAME_____________________

MY CHILDREN'S NAMES__________________________

HOW ARE YOU_________________________________





CAN YOU SHOW ME (the) SIGN FOR _______(spell word)?  This is one phrase that will help to build your vocabulary.

You also can learn more sign language by watching DVDs, online dictionaries or read dictionary books.  Also, there are some CD-rom programs. Many times people choose to attend a community college, park and recreation or other venues that teach sign language basic courses.

 Keep in mind that sign language is fun and a wonderful language skill to have, however adults tend to learn a bit slower than kids! Don't be discouraged.  Have fun and learn interactively. So, venture out and practice your sign language when you are out and about. Practice what you learn on a regular basis.  Try and learn five words or phrases at a time and when you accomplish these words move on to a few more.  If you goof, don't panic... there is no "sign language police" who will knock on your door and tell you that you have made a terrible error!  

Please feel free to visit my company website, SIGNING FAMILIES for information about sign language, some photos and video of first signs and our gallery of signing people!  

Again, I applaud your willingness to learn sign language to benefit your children's ability and yours to interact with the new neighbors.  It is a win-win for all!

Louise Masin Sattler, NCSP
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
Owner of Signing Families
Visit Signing Families on

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Additional Answers (2)

lravidlearner , Teacher, Parent writes:
Take a notepad and pencil with you to the bus stop.  That's one of the easiest ways to communicate.

There is a free online signing dictionary you can use to practice some simple phrases like "hello" as well as letters in American Sign Language.  The site is called Signing Savvy:

I'm sure they'll be happy to meet you and make new friends for their children.
> 60 days ago

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hopefulness writes:
Maybe it would be easier to write things down but the question is how do the children dill with it
> 60 days ago

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