ASL language and literacy development at age 3

The bilingual three-year-old preschooler Juli's language development was about mature that she could talk in ASL more that I no longer could keep detailed records nor could capture on video as much luck as I used to have. Here are some handpicked moments of converations all in ASL.

Some of the following examples that Juli had uttered during the month of May: father work firefighter ix(hydro); you work university, problem (whenever there is a trouble with an app on her mini-ipad), important (demanding for a mini-ipad that she was upset for not having it, and some more.

One bedtime, Juli got off the bed. I asked in ASL, "what's up?" Juli raised her finger, one-moment and she continued, ix-me just-look-at, not eat. Stay with you. She just wanted to assure me that she was not going downstairs to eat but just to look (at the refrigerator) and she assured that she would be with me. Of course, she had a true goal -- something perhaps sweet to eat.

Another day, Juli signed Hey, ix-me hear bird singing cl-beak-singing++.

Juli had used the ASL word save few times. For example, Juli herself told me one day, straw-box save for school that she wanted to save it for school.

Another day, Juli came home with a bag of donut with pink sprinkles. I let her eat it, but she took a tiny bite. Then she told me, save for school tomorrow.

Language development: Age 3;2

Some of the following examples that Juli had uttered during the middle period of this (third) month in March: come play with me to-clay (asking me to play clay with her), my hair ix(wall) fall-on(duck) duck (her hair strand was on the wall in the bathtub and she explained "My hair, which is on the bath wall, was falling on the duck).

ix-me want you to-get straw for me please, my turn now, [?] same [?] ok

Juli yelled (visually) leave-it ix-there!, telling me not to touch the apple pie.

One early morning, Juli and I were about to leave the house for a ride to her preschool. Juli stated in ASL: grandmother not pick-me-up me. grandfather not pick-me-up me. mother pick-me-up me. father not pick-me-up me, work still university. I clarified, father work ix firefighter; ix-me work ix-loc university. Juli absolutely knew that; it was probably her finger slip.

Lately, Juli sometimes joked around. For example, one day Juli wore her bathrobe. She told me, ix-me go-to school ix-bathrobe ("I'm going to school in this bathrobe"). As I replied, "No way", she imitated my expression or reaction. Next, she signed ix-me go-to father ix-bathrobe. No reply, knowing she was kidding. I knew Juli was conscious of her pajamas (e.g. embarrased) if there was any other person around other than myself.

3rd to last week of the month

Juli rejected the pajamas that I handed her. She told me, ix-me want light pink (where the handshape for light is "6"). Her light pink pajamas was in the laundry. She explained, ix dark pink ("That's the dark one"). With no choice, she accepted the dark one.

One early morning, I told Juli, "I'm sick a little. Need to sleep a bit more." Juli replied you sick. eat candy two much, sick! (where "two" is "too").

I explained, "No, it's not sugar. I'm sick because.. um, I've been stressful." Juli suggested you need medicine. Get-better.

"I don't need medicine. I just need to rest to get better." Juli knew the usual routine and suggested ipad. you get ipad. come-here. She held my hand and walked. She occupied herself with the ipad while I rested beside her on the loveseat.


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A Deaf 3 year old big brother teaches his 2 year old little sister how to sign SMALL and BIG in American Sign Language (ASL) by reading a book.

Related posts

Also see Literacy: talking about dreams in sign language.

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.