A Multi-Sensory Approach to Teaching Adults with Learning Disabilities-
Using Sign Language as a Tool for Learning

Visit YouPublish for this FREE document and the entire workshop/guide at


Some Basic ASL Signs


1 2 3 4

5 6 7 8

9 10 11 12

Note: The number “0” (zero) is signed like the letter “o”.
Please see below.

The Fingerspelled Alphabet



For animated graphics and detailed descriptions of the signs, please
visit the following web-sites:

ASL Spelling Study: The Alphabet at http://www.duber.com/CALL/asl.html

Numbers at the ASL University at

How Signing Helps Hearing Children Learn to Read
Research Summary (excerpts)

Summarized by Laura Felzer

http://www.tinyfingers.com/articlereadingfeltzer.html August 1, 2000

The use of signs to help hearing children learn dates back to the 19th century
when Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who pioneered education for the deaf in the
United States, advocated using sign language and fingerspelling to help increase
vocabulary and language development in hearing children (Daniels, 1996 Child
Study Journal). In 1852 David Bartlett taught deaf children and their hearing
siblings in a family school. He discovered that signing and fingerspelling not only
helped the deaf children learn but it also helped their hearing siblings as well
(Blackburn et. al. 1984). Other educators of the hearing impaired during the
19′th century made similar observations and also recommended that signing be
used to help teach reading, spelling and writing to hearing children (Hafer and
Wilson, 1989). However, during the early part of the 20th century signing fell in
disfavor and was not encouraged for use with the hearing impaired or, as it turns
out, with hearing children. Not until the late 20′th century was signing once
again fully accepted and recognized as an independent language (Daniels, 1996
Child Study Journal)…
McCay Vernon and Joan D. Coley (1978) cited programs that use signing and
fingerspelling to teach regular hearing children (who do not necessarily have
deaf parents) how to read. These highly effective programs have been taking
place in Maryland (Mrs. Peggy Denton, Waverly Elementary School) and West
Virginia (Mrs. Jan Dubois, Rosemont Elementary School). Early unpublished
appraisals of these programs show success. Vernon and Coley also stated that
“Because signs are so vivid, dramatic and fascinating they may serve as a
powerful motivating force in helping youngsters want to learn to read. For
example, Sesame Street is capitalizing on the motivating nature of
communicating through signs by having a deaf person, Linda Bove, added to the
regular cast to teach children to ‘read’ and ‘write’ signs and to fingerspell”
In 1977 Walker emphasized fingerspelling to teach reading to thirteen
“incorrigible” junior high school boys whose reading ability ranged from the
second to the fourth grade level. The boys achieved success and actually
enjoyed their reading lessons (Blackburn et. al., 1984)…
In 1984 Blackburn and others (1984) conducted a case study of two learning-
disabled fourteen year old boys. For the first several weeks the boys were taught
the manual alphabet and a sign language vocabulary. Once the subjects were
A Multi-Sensory Approach to Teaching Adults with Learning Disabilities
Using Sign Language as a Tool for Learning – Some Basic ASL Signs sv4
comfortable with signing, signs were introduced to reinforce the phonetic
decoding of words using key word analysis. During the five month project both
subjects made a great deal of progress in reading comprehension and
vocabulary. “The boys regular reading teachers reported that signing was an
extremely motivating form of reading instruction for both subjects and strongly
recommended continuing the project “(P.27)…
The studies reviewed in this report discuss how students of all ages including
those with disabilities can benefit from signing and fingerspelling when learning
to read. Signs can be used as a highly effective teaching tool for students who
do not respond to traditional instructional methods as well as be part of a regular
reading program for an entire class. A reading program that includes the use of
signs has the added advantage of bringing a kinesthetic dimension to learning as
well as making learning fun. Students enjoy the physical involvement that
signing brings.

Using Sign Language in Your Classroom (excerpts)

Constance D. Lawrence

Education Resources Information Center ED459557. April 19, 2001

Research studies have shown that sign language enhances brain activity on both
sides of the brain. In the research of psychologist David P. Corina of the
University of Washington in Seattle it was found that “…sign language
comprehension is accompanied by substantial neuronal activity in parts of both
the right and left hemispheres of native signers…”(Bower, 1996)…
We know that when both sides of the brain are operating, students have more
ways to make connections for learning. If we link the written word with sign, it
will increase students’ chances of success in reading.
According to Brennan and Miller (2000), it has been shown by the research of
Greenberg, Vernon, DuBois, and McKnight (1982) that “Involving sign language
in a total communication reading program has proven successful for students
with learning disabilities and mental retardation.” Brennan and Miller also stated,
and I agree from experience, “in using sign, the teacher adds a kinaesthetic
aspect to the lesson (or reading), and putting to use more of the learning
modalities, makes language easier to acquire.”The use of sign language, I have
found, helps students to pay attention and be physically involved in the lessons.

To Learn in a Different Style: An LD Success Story (excerpts)

Susan J. Berescik

Academic Therapy; v24 n3 p. 289-293. January 1989

From the beginning Drew was an enigma… During infancy he rarely slept more
than 4 hours at a time. Waking hours were constant motion, and by 10 months
old he walked. The hyper-active behaviour increased… Visitors shook their heads
and whispered comments about the undisciplined brat.”…
In the fall of 1978, when Drew was 4 years old and had a monosyllabic
vocabulary of perhaps 50 words, I called pupil services and requested testing
again. A social worker filed the first report: Drew was hyperactive because he
loved hot dogs and consumed to much red food dye…
After 3 weeks in a private nursery school, the teacher approached me
confidentially. She reaffirmed my own belief that Drew was of normal intelligence
because he responded to complex directions. However, she felt he should be
tested immediately for speech and hearing because he couldn’t communicate.
Obviously able to hear, he responded like a deaf child…
“Hyperactive children are unable to sit for much more than ten minutes,” [a
speech therapist] told me during that first visit. Drew spent 45 minutes in her
closet laboratory. Amazed at his attention span and impressed by his apparent
intelligence, she was appalled by his level of communication. He was unable to
learn to recognize the role of word arrangement in spoken language by hearing
speech. He had to learn to speak by seeing…
Therapy started immediately- two half-hour sessions a week, supplemented by
an hour a day at home with Mommy. The speech therapist trained me to train
Drew, and I designed listening games and word play activities. Speech patterns
were taught by sign language and repetition…
After 3 months he had mastered the noun-verb pattern and could listen with only
one repetition of his name… Nearly all physical misbehaviour disappeared with
mastery of the single pattern, and he could communicate, albeit on a
rudimentary level, instead of physically reacting out of frustration.
Drew was a child who could not learn speech by hearing it spoken, and yet he
could hear perfectly well. Today, at the age of 14, he is a success… Listening is
still difficult for him, but competitive drive and natural intelligence have helped
him overcome his disabilities and develop his own style of learning. He was
taught language visually because he could not process it auditorily.

Visit YouPublish for this FREE document and the entire workshop/guide at


Posted by: silvanavalentone | January 4, 2010




What a peculiar word in Italian. It’s used to greet people as well as to bid them farewell.

And what about “To be or not to be”? Is that really the question? By no means trying to challenge these thought-provoking words immortalized by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but just thinking…

Did you know there are two different verbs in Spanish “ser” and “estar”, which translate as “to be”? And that there is no sign for it (the verb “to be”) in American Sign Language? I know, I know… you may have seen it signed in literal translations/interpretations in Signed English, but not in the natural language used by the Deaf in North America, ASL.

Why do you think is that? Is it that “being” is more important in certain cultures than in others? Or is it just taken for granted?

Frankly, we’re in no position to judge. The observations, however, are interesting and intriguing.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples or focus “facts”.

I am a teacher and I am happy (both of which happen to be true for me;-)

Focus #1




I am a teacher.

am” – Verbto be

(Yo) Soy profesora.

(“Yo” – subject pronoun may be omitted)

Soy” – Verbser

“profesora” – noun, feminine


Sign for “I”                 Sign for “TEACHER”

Possible variations: I – TEACHER (above),



I ASL illustrations based on the ones created by Frank A. Paul and featured in A Basic Course in American Sign Language, Tom Humphries, Carol Padden, Terrence J. O’Rourke, Copyright © 1980 T.J. Publishers (817 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910)

Focus #2:

English Spanish ASL I
I am happy.

am” – Verbto be

(Yo) Estoy contenta.

(“Yo” – subject pronoun may be omitted)

Estoy” – Verbestar

“contenta” – adjective, feminine


Sign for “I”                 Sign for “HAPPY”

Possible variations: I – HAPPY (above),

HAPPY – I, or I – HAPPY – I


I ASL illustrations based on the ones created by Frank A. Paul and featured in A Basic Course in American Sign Language, Tom Humphries, Carol Padden, Terrence J. O’Rourke, Copyright © 1980 T.J. Publishers (817 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910)

Going back to the original questions, “To be or not to be?”, “Ser” or “Estar”??… In the end, what matters is the concept that I am a teacher and I am happy, and feel excited to share these reflections with you.



Copyright © 2009

Silvana Valentone

Comments? Questions of your own? I would love to read your reflections, too. Please email me at elessons_uy@hotmail.com. Thank you!

Posted by: silvanavalentone | January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!

Happy New Year!!

May all your dreams come true in 2010

Welcome to my blog. Please browse, follow my links, read on, comment,…

Si hablas español, puedes leer mi blog en http://silvanavalentones.wordpress.com

Thank you,




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.