Paying attention to signing

In this video clip, each time the hearing worker (in blue shirt) vocally spoke, the baby (age 0;9) turned her attention to a Deaf person who manually spoke in ASL. Not only ASL was her first language, but also eye/sight was her first modality of language.

One day as my colleague Sandra and I sat down, Sandra started talking in ASL and I was listening. Typically, I would check on Juli (age 0;5) whenever I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye but disregarded typical small movements.

But, several long minutes had passed by without any slight movement. It was so unusual. I quickly glanced to check on Juli and found her sitting completely still and intensely observing Sandra.

Half hour already passed by and Juli remained completely quiet and attentive before Juli finally made a fuss.

Then, we moved to the family room where Juli could play in her play station. Sandra and I continued our talk while Juli kept herself occupied, facing in the opposite direction.

Again, several minutes had passed by, all undisturbed. I quickly checked on Juli and she was still largely occupied in the opposite direction. I continually checked on her every several minutes. Unchanged, I found her strangely silent and still. It was so unusual.

Finally I decided to follow Juli's gaze toward the reflective television screen in front of her. The moment our mutual gaze locked in the reflection, she grinned ear to ear. She had been watching us through the reflection on the televsion screen.

Likewise, a few weeks ago (0;5,1), my visiting mother listened as I talked in ASL while she was holding Juli on her lap forward-facing me. For a straight non-stop, Juli sat still and intensely concentrated on me.

My mother was distracted by Juli's complete motionless with her focus on my signing. She told me, "Look how still she is!" I quickly acknowledged and continued on to catch up with the news as much as I could before Juli stirred fuss.

This behavior of unusual intense focus puzzled me. Why did Juli watch so closely when one was talking in ASL lately?

Research explains that at around 6 months, babies are beginning to understand some of what is being said; and they pay attention to small details in surroundings. At this stage, vision improves with the ability to detect small details.

These were the clues. Juli did begin to notice a tiny object on the floor lately. Could it be also that Juli had the ability to detect subtle details of facial signals and movements?

Video clip: The baby Juli paid close attention to her mother conversing in adult talk.

Baby attending a workshop in Advanced ASL Classifiers

Well, Juli (age 4;2) wouldn't let me go out without her for a long period of time so she had to go anywhere I go. We agreed to a deal and she was happy with it. Even without this deal, I'd take her out anyway to expose ASL to her.

Video clip: Hey, pay attention to the presenter.

ASL vocabulary

The ASL words and phrases that I used with Juli this week are as follows: sweet potato, carrot, kiwi, cook... and the past usuals.

Related posts

This documentation project follows a baby's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, week by week from gazing at birth to manual babbling, to first words just before the first birthday in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.

The second-year and third-year documentation continues to follow the same child's language and phonological acquisition and literacy development in ASL on a weekly basis from the one-word stage to two-word and multiple utterances.

The documentary continues to follow the same child's ASL language and literacy development on a regular basis from age three to four. It surveys ASL phonological acquisition and more complex utterances.

These posts on ASL-English bilingualism, language acquisition, and bilingual education may be of an interest for parents who raise a bilingual-bimodal child in ASL (or another signed language) and English (or another written and/or spoken language of its respective) as well as informative and educational for ASL specialists, educators, and professionals.