When my mother learned my older sister was deaf, she turned to a deaf distant cousin and asked what she should do to best educate her daughter. The deaf cousin, Michael Cashman, said “Look at me. I’m doing fine. What do I use?”. My mother answered, “ASL.” It was from his response that my parents decided to use sign language in the home. When I was born, all of the family was using sign language.
I use ASL and written English. I cannot speak, nor lipread. I can catch a word here and there, but the skill never amounted to much. I am bi-lingual and –capital D– Deaf.
The key to a good education is starting early. It is not so much that ASL is the only key to early language acquisition. The true key is that of early acquisition of any language. Give me any language that a child can learn, and they will grow into well-rounded adults. It just so happens ASL is the only language that gives deaf children early access to communication. Heck, hearing children are taught sign.
So when I talk with hearing parents of deaf children, I don’t push ASL on them. I avoid the risk of making them feel they are being choked. I just tell them how important it is that their child learns language as early as possible (how can this be disputed?), and I then ask them: what language(s) provides the earliest access? When they answer the question themselves, it’s more profound.
I don’t pressure. I make them think. If they don’t agree, I don’t waste my time. It’s their choice.