Insuring a Bright Future:  ASL Resources
American Sign Language is a visual language of complex signs and motions performed by the hands. American Sign Language also incorporates facial expressions and other body gestures. People with hearing loss often use ASL to communicate with others. A universal sign language does not exist; people in different countries and regions use unique sign languages. Learning ASL can bridge a connection between those who can hear and those who cannot hear.

The origin of American Sign Language is not definite, but history indicates that ASL was used in rudimentary forms at least 200 years ago. Over time, ASL has evolved to include components of other sign languages. American Sign Language does not have a definitive connection with the English language. Instead, ASL has its own rules of grammar, word order, and pronunciation (sometimes referred to as "sign production"). When you speak ASL, you will even find that it has dialects and accents that differ for various regions of the country.

American Sign Language is growing in prevalence. In fact, ASL is estimated to be the fourth most common language in the United States. Some states have passed legislation that recognizes ASL as a valid language. A significant number of schools are mainstreaming students with hearing disabilities, increasing the need for ASL interpreters in the classroom. Employers often search for employees who know ASL to enable the employers to show their compliance and cooperation with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When deafness or hearing loss is present, a person should begin learning ASL as early as possible. Everyone needs to be able to communicate, and teaching deaf children ASL will give them this important ability. Early acquisition of ASL skills will enhance communication significantly as a child grows older. When a hearing disability occurs with a child, often the parents and the child will need to learn ASL together. Even parents who may not be completely fluent with ASL can successfully teach it to a child.

Learning ASL takes time and practice. The National Association of the Deaf advises that it may take up to one year to learn enough signs to become comfortable communicating in this language. Because everyone learns at different speeds, you may learn at faster or slower rate. Taking an ASL class can be an effective way to learn the basics of American Sign Language. After learning a few signs, use them as often as you can to develop your skills. If you forget a sign or do not know it while communicating in ASL, you can always fingerspell the letters of the words. Keep your pace slow as you begin signing to ensure that you sign clearly and accurately.

Learn more about American Sign Language with the following resources:

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