Can You Talk Without Your Hands?

We are Deaf and use American Sign Language in our house so communication should not be an issue.

And yet it is. The reason?


Those of you with children already get my drift.

Those of you without children and/or would like clarification, before trying to have a (signed) conversation, try this exercise:

Rent one of those air dancers you see at expos/fairs and set it up in your living room.

Attach a 10 pound weighted barbell to your right wrist with a string so it dangles.

With your left arm pick up a 20 pound sack of potatoes and hold it on your hip (Yukon Gold is best).

Turn on a fan.

Place a plate of steaming cauliflower between you and the fan.

Start making a peanut butter sandwich.

And.. go.

Alright, now everybody understands.

photoChildren, no matter how wonderful, WILL TIE YOUR HANDS UP! With ours being a Deaf house in which those hands are used a LOT, it has required us to get creative in our communications – much of which is improvised daily.

And really, this is something that had not once occurred to me prior to having children. Yes, all the people who had kids before me, keep laughing, that’s fine.

IMG_6813Now, you may be thinking, “Well what about lipreading?” Lipreading is an inborn talent at best. We try to lipread each other. After years now of producing a wrench from the garage, when my husband wanted me to scratch his back, I’ve accepted we are simply lacking in these innate abilities. I admit, it does work at times. But then again so does mind-reading.

Anyway, I know we aren’t alone in this. Our journey (and the journey of other Deaf parents) naturally gives birth to a whole ‘nother language. Clever modifications using whatever means we have available has become a dance of sorts. And dance, we do..

So, if you’re looking to expand your repertoire, (or heck, just need a chuckle) check out these moves:

photoThe Bump Useful when both arms and legs are otherwise occupied. Hip bumps into another which would be in place of tapping the shoulder using your hand. Also you can use your hip as a pointer to show directionality.

Leg /toe extension Uses the toe to point to things needed when both hands and arms are full AND lower body is visible.



Chin/elbow point Can be used separately to point to things needed or in a combo move which references another person AND an item needed when hands are full but only upper body visible (like at a counter).


photoBlow! A simple puff of air directed at your Beloved. This usually works best indoors, otherwise it could be mistaken for the wind. Most often employed to get the attention of someone looking the other way and all other limbs are in use.

Eyebrow raise Primarily used as a reaction to express alarm to a statement deemed ludicrous immediately prior. Such as, “I’m going to take the kids out for a double fudge brownie sundae before dinner.”

Spare finger wiggles Hands and arms seemingly full, yet one finger from each hand can convey so much. Use with a chin point combo for extra clarity.IMG_5768

Glare or Stare Last resort move but particularly useful when speaker has utilized one or all of the rigorous above moves only to realize the other person is no longer paying attention. The key here is sustaining Glare or Stare for maximum effect.


So, that’s what we do. I figure we’ll be able to have a complete conversation within the next decade or so.

So you see, like all parents our life is pretty crazy.  We’ve got a lot going on when we’re all home or out and about.

Through it all, we just keep on dancing!

Inflatable dancer photo courtesy of fashionmoods1 

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