Saturday, November 20, 2010

Counting on your fingers

In the adult world, counting on your fingers is supposed to be a sign of less-than-optimal intelligence. But in the deaf and hard-of-hearing world, those who sign use their fingers to show numbers all the time. Just as there are signs for the letters of the alphabet, there are also signs for numbers.

When Jennifer was little, I taught her the alphabet by voice and sign. I would sign and say the letters at the same time. This was repeated when I taught her numbers. We are doing this with Jesse, as well. Just as we sign letters to him, so he knows what the signs are, we also sign how to count on his fingers with each number.

When children use their fingers to count, it usually goes that they would hold up each finger and count to 10 with both hands. But for signing, we only use one hand for all the numbers.

To get an idea of how to sign the numbers with one hand, check out this video:

Anyway, I have been working with him on that. It took some time for him to grasp signing "3" the way it's done in ASL. Holding up the three big fingers for "3" is the same as the letter "W" so, for a signer, we use the middle, index fingers and the thumb for the number "3." (When hubby and I watched the movie Inglorious Basterds, I had to marvel over how a character discovered a spy based on how the bad guy indicated the number "3." He did so using the way the number is signed in ASL. I could only think that a deaf person during that part of history must have been too scared to sign "3" for fear of being accused of being a spy!) But he has finally been able to sign "3" like we do, though occasionally he reverts back to "W" instead. And, for a time, he also forgot the number "4," both verbally and physically (yes, he counted 1-2-3-5 for a while there).

Yesterday, while we were waiting to be called at his doctor appointment, I tried to keep him preoccupied by counting things. He would point at pictures of flowers and count them in each photo. He counted all 10 flowers in one picture. And he counted on his fingers correctly. I praised him and gave him a little cheer for counting to 10 both verbally and physically (the way a signer counts to 10) and he was quite proud of himself. He counted all 10 flowers again before dashing off to study something else in that waiting area.

I am glad he can count to 10 the way a signer does. Now we need to work on getting him to count higher -- both verbally and on just one hand.

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