Making a conversation with strangers

One day 13-month-old Juli quickly toddled out of the library room into the hallway on her own. As soon as I caught up, a library woman stood in the hallway.

As soon as I picked her up, Juli friendly talked with the stranger in ASL -- she pointed and produced drive-car. The woman delightfully responded oh! yes, drive-car.

Another time, I detected Juli signing flower on her nose but I couldn't be sure. But, I did notice this production on the location between her lips and nose.

Sure enough, later that day, Juli first discovered her nose. The first thought I had was whether she would sign flower on her nose instead of the lips. It didn't happen much.

Next day at a bilingual ASL/English center, Juli sat on the bench. "Jane" stopped by to say hello to her, translated as Hello there! How are you? ... What's your name? ... Juli sat there quietly and watched her as Jane talked with her in ASL.

Then suddenly Juli pointed to the right and produced flower (on her lips). Jane looked quizzically for a moment. She turned to look at the flower pot next to the bench. "Ah!" She responded flower with a nod.

That same morning at the play group, "Nyla" commented on the sunflower on Juli's shirt. She pointed to Juli's shirt and commented beautiful flower.

Juli looked for a moment, looked at her shirt, and responded flower (on the lips). Then she walked away multiple-pointing to herself (or on her shirt).

Fast forward, 19-month-old (week 4) Juli comfortably talked in ASL with strangers, some ASL-speaking friends and some English-speaking passers-by.

A friend's partner "Bob" stopped by to drop a book. He also came to say hello to Juli. I expected a complete silence since Juli hadn't met him before.

To my surprise, Juli showed Bob many things what she knew. She reported, insect. As she was about to produce the next verb slap!, Bob misinterpreted it as something else (because Juli produced it with a handshape error).

Then Juli jumped multiple and uttered jumping. Next she signed ball throw-up+++ and few other things.

A few days later, Juli made a conversation with another guest "Angela" while watching the film "Babies". She told Angela what was on the screen, ix-loc baby crying. (The baby's crying.) And a few other things.

Greeting with the ASL word "hello"

Then, 21-month-old toddler was eager to meet new people. She greeted them with the ASL sign "hello" or "hi". Although, often the other kids didn't reply or didn't notice her.

Juli probably wondered why those kids didn't respond. Although, adults did respond better. Juli probably wondered what and how made them respond and some not.

Use of referential ASL words

Last week I lit a candle and signed fire. Juli might remember a bonfire we had on the new year eve a couple of months ago. She stared at it in awe. I don't think she could forget.

One day in the basement, Juli came across a brochure with an image of a living room with its fireplace. She pointed to the fireplace (new context) and produced fire (the production similar to her production for "snow" but with slightly different movement).

At a bedtime, Juli opened a book and the page showed an image of a deer. I produced it for her a few times every time she pointed to it as if she was double or trice checking.

As I was busy around, Juli looked at Dude and showed him by pointing to the deer and produced deer (same production as her production for "eye-glasses"). She didn't use an open handshape.

The following words that Juli has used with references: football (when she found the football in a box in the storage room), hot, bath (perfect production), snack (using "more" in reference to a snack -- cookie, mini-muffin, etc), cl-swing, cough (Juli's turn-taking game by pretending a cough and signing "cough" at a birthday party), fish, hairbrush, monkey and some regularly used words from the past.


Got a story to tell your experience and share it with others? Send an email to Handspeak. I'd love to hear about it, too.

See in action

".. My daughter is 14 months old and uses about 12 signs plus understands a few more. This form of communication has been wonderful and it's exciting for us to see her in action! .. " -- Mandy Wade, April 10, 2001.