Teaching Deaf kids ASL - fingerspelling?

So my 3-year-old son is rapidly learning ASL from me.  It's nothing short of amazing how he is accelerating.  One thing I haven't done much around him though is fingerspelling.  As he learns more, it becomes more difficult for me since I don't know signs for everything under the sun.

There are only two cases, though.  Some thing have no signs, and must be finger-spelled, and some things have a sign and I don't know the sign.  How do I deal with this??

Let's take an example:  Octopus.  Clearly this is much to complicated for him to finger spell--if I finger spell this to him he relays back to me "garbage" trying to mimic my hand.

Can someone please help me here to understand how kids learn fingerspelling?  Thanks in advance!!


Xpressive Handz said…
HI! I would suggest, since your son is only three, start with small words, just one or two a week. Ant, bug, words like these. Make up sentences to use each day. Also, show how looks on the lips, mouthing the word as you fingespell it, not the letters. This will help his reading skills in the future as well. Keep it fun, short and simple. :-) We learned the sign for octopus from a Signing Time DVD. You can check out the series from your local library, and because it is educational, the DVD's are FREE to check out.
Art said…
You may find this interesting:


of course for words that you don't know - a good ASL Dictionary helps. My favorite is Canadian ASL Dictionary also a very good app is ASL Dictionary 4,800 Signs. I have that on my Tablet.
Aaron said…
WOW thanks for that amazing PDF. I actually visited VL2 this summer, but I didn't see that paper.

When Deaf parents finger spell to Deaf kids, do they slow it down and show each letter, or just flash it one or more times? The paper kind of covered this, but I don't understand how Deaf kids normally learn fingerspelling (as a series of handshakes, or as a fluid changing of handshapes).

I know that I and most of the other students have such a hard time with fingerspelling even after years of practice because of the mental process that needs to happen, e.g. think of the thing, think of the word for the thing, spell it, translate that to handshapes. Not being native ASL, there's really no other way, which sucks.
Liz said…
I am the same when it comes to fingerspelling Aaron.

I know my letters and so can fingerspell quickly, but to read it back is not as good.
David granovsky said…
While “In the Country of the Blind
the One-Eyed Man is King…”
In the Country of the Deaf,
the Hearing Man is...
Culturally Deprived

Anonymous said…
Hi...because some words we use when speaking don't exist in ASL we decided to use Exact English sign language with our on year old. It's used in our school district and also my preference since this will allow him to read and write with out skipping words.
Adrienne said…
At age 3, he is probably beginning to realize that words are made up of sounds. Does he play with index cards that have a picture with the name of the word below? I think 3 is the perfect age to begin to fingerspell together and then point to the item you just fingerspelled. It will help him with his reading skills when he is older. My son taught himself to read at 4 from the tv show Between the Lions and paid a lot of attention to the pictures in his book and the words next to them.

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