Adopting a deaf child, when you or your family do not know sign language will be difficult and also rewarding, as you can imagine. First and foremost, start learning ASL immediately. It isn’t like picking up a new hobby, it is a language, and one that you will need and want, to be in a position to communicate with your child and grow closer to them.

There are many different resources for learning ASL, The ASL App, Start ASL, LifePrint, just to name a few. There are hundreds of apps, websites, videos, blogs, and more with different tools and tricks to help you learn ASL.

Consistency is the key when learning any new language, so you should practice and study it every day. If your child is older, practice with him so you can help each other. Put in a good effort, and make it a priority. It will make a huge difference in yours and your child’s life. It will not only improve communication, but it will strengthen your relationship, build this skill that could benefit others if needed of you, and it will be a sign to your child that you care for them.

“Signs for Hope agrees with the research and observations that strongly supports and believes that American Sign Language acquisition is paramount for your Deaf/HOH child’s emotional and social well-being and will give them an increased ability to master English written/read language as their second language.” said Becky Lloyd, the founder and director of Signs for Hope “You and your child will become bilingual and bicultural-ASL and English & Deaf and hearing respectively.  Even though your child will probably be behind linguistically, emotionally, and socially, when they first come home, as are most children adopted internationally, they will make great improvements once they have a family who signs with them day in and day out.  And your ability to communicate with your Deaf/HOH child, from the very beginning, will grant you greater opportunities to connect, parent, and train your child successfully.”

If your child has not been exposed to sign language, this can be especially frustrating for both parties. A lack of communication can create a lot of tension and misinformation. Give him the care he needs, enroll him in a school that will help him learn the language. Encourage sign language in the home, with all members of the family. Research community resources, local schools or programs that he could go to learn.

Rebekah Lewis is currently a college student studying social work and sociology. She wants to be a voice for foster kids as well as a child abuse victims advocate. She is a co-founder of a nonprofit organization designed to prevent abuse in the rising generation. She loves to write, hike, and throw random dance parties.