How can rhyming be portrayed in ASL? Is there rhythm in ASL? How do rhyming and rhythm support deaf children’s language development? There is a growing movement to promote language development among young children through ASL rhymes and rhythm. The following presenters supply information and demonstrations of different ways that rhyming and rhythm can be used to engage young children.
In her blog Deaf Progressivism, Barbara Wingfield discusses the importance of making nursery rhymes accessible to deaf children through ASL and provides several examples. She says:
“It is crucial to engage young Deaf signers in ASL songs that they are able to re-chant and internalize the language and make their own. Historically, Deaf children who don’t have enough opportunity to “play with language and developing ASL phonemic awareness” tend to struggle more in academic performances. The use of drum usually engages them to follow the beats with repetition more effectively.
I’ve witnessed how Deaf children have taken with delight in the visual images and strong rhythmic character of ASL own version of nursery rhymes. Visual imagery and the rhythms indeed have a powerful effect on cognition.”
Austin Andrews (CODA and popular presenter also known as Awti and the Deaf Ninja Storyteller) provides a concrete example of how to adapt a nursery rhyme for ASL, utilizing the rhythmic beat of Gallaudet University’s famous “Bison Song.”
Leala Holcomb presents one of the Dr. Seuss’ classics, Hop on Pop, using ASL rhyming techniques to match the whimsical message of Dr. Seuss.
We look forward to seeing more and more of this kind of work in ASL for several reasons. One is the pure entertainment value of watching performers make nursery rhymes come to alive in ASL. In addition, we are excited about the prospect of deaf children having increased access to nursery rhymes through ASL.
What are your thoughts?