Tactile and American Sign Languages

Tactile Sign Language and American Sign Language

I have a student who signs, but is loosing his vision. Can I still sign with him?
Yes. Some deaf-blind people communicate with tactile sign language. In many ways it is just like American Sign Language (ASL), but it is signed into the Deaf-blind individual's hands.

What are other situations when this would be appropriate?
Tactile Sign language is appropriate for students who are blind and use sign language. This includes hearing students who use ASL for cognitive, neurological, or behavioral reasons as well.
What student would Tactile Sign language not be appropriate for?
Tactile Sign Language, like ASL, is not typically more concrete than speech. If a student's cognitive status makes speech too complex to be accessible, then tactile signs may not be assessable either. Other, more concrete communication options for deaf-blind individuals include tangible symbols, specific devices, and touch cues.
How do I use Tactile Sign Language? Do I form the signs with my student's hands, or sign and have the student touch my hands?
It is important that the student knows who is communicating. If you form the signs with his or her hands, the student may believe that you are prompting them to make the sign, rather then communicating to them. Additionally, manipulating a student's hands promotes passivity. Having them feel your hands encourages choice making, to attend or not attend, as well as activity touching your hands, rather then waiting for you to touch theirs.
When the student signs to me, do I watch or feel their hands?
You may want to put your hands on theirs, to show them that you are paying attention, and are present. A student, who is more advanced, however will have learned the role of communication partners.
Where can I learn some more signs?
Here are some online resources for learning ASL or Signed English: Online ASL resources and classes
Online ASL classes

A deaf individual teaches this free, on-line ASL class. I highly recommend it. It doesn't offer credits, but for a fee you can receive a certificate saying that you completed it. Otherwise it is free.

These online ASL classes cost $49.95 each, and offer 1.5 CEUs for each class. They have four levels.

This website offers additional resources for people enrolled in or teaching ASL classes, but does not have a comprehensive class in itself. It was designed specifically for the classroom teacher. It also offers a dictionary of religious signs, a figerspelling lesson, and a quiz.

This list of self-paced online lessons is free, but does not offer credits. It teaches Signed English, and explains the difference between signed English and American Sign Language.

This site offers many interesting classes, including ones in baby sign. They also offer tips on using ASL with student who are deaf and/or have additional disabilities. It is a paid-subscription site, where you pay about $5 a month to use their extensive services. They do not offer credits. Make sure that you are looking at the ASL or baby sign sections, and not the International Sign, Animal talk, or "others" sections. It offers good information for free as well, such as ASL grammar tips.

Snow College in Utah offers a full, three-credit introduction to ASL class, and an independent study ASL course online. It costs $354 dollars.

ASL dictionaries

This easy-to-use on-line dictionary offers video clips of signs. They also have some more obscure words, such as "searchlight" and "jaywalking".

Offers more obscure signs, but the quality of the video isn't as good.

This dictionary is good because it offers specific uses for each word in ASL. For example, for the word "know" it gives the note "Often times the sign for "KNOW" is done on the cheek. This is not "lazy" (as some people report) this is simply efficient signing--best suited to a casual environment. ". On the negative side, there are not videos for each picture, but a series of still photos.

This dictionary offers many common school-related words in Signed English along with Sign English phrases.

Fingerspelling practice

Has an easy-to-access quiz. Presents fingerspelling as a series of still photos, which is more consistent with signed English or the beginning signer of ASL. Kid-friendly as well.

Includes video clips of fingerspelling examples that are consistent with advanced ASL grammar and deaf culture

Fingerspelling fonts

A graphic fingerspelling font that's a bit unusual. Great for viewing at a distance, such as on a bulletin board. Has both Mac and PC versions.

Has some ASL and Braille fonts for both PC and Mac.

Classes in ASL that meet in person are held through UAA (http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/) and APU (http://www.alaskapacific.edu/).
Tactile Sign Language Resources

To my knowledge, there is not a comprehensive guide to American Sign Language on the web. There is only one comprehensive book published on the subject.

Tactile Sign language: Turn Taking and Questions in Signed Conversations of Deaf-blind People by Johanna Mesche, available at: http://www.amazon.com/Tactile-Sign-Language-Conversations-International/dp/3927731803/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-9192487-8184637?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1194293083&sr=8-1