American Sign Language, or ASL, for a time also called Ameslan, is the dominant sign language of Deaf Americans. ASL is used amongst deaf communities in the United States, in the English-speaking parts of Canada, and in some regions of Mexico. The sign language emerged primarily from Old French Sign, with major input from Martha’s Vineyard and various home sign systems. Thus, although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as a common language, British Sign Language (BSL) is quite different from ASL. The story of ASL begins with deaf education, Martha’s Vineyard, and a local minister,Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, who was enlisted by a father to educate his deaf daughter, Alice Cogswell.
Parents are often the source of a child’s early acquisition of language. A deaf child who is born to deaf parents who already use ASL will begin to acquire ASL as naturally as a hearing child picks up spoken language from hearing parents. Some hearing parents choose to introduce sign language to their deaf children. Hearing parents who choose to learn sign language often learn it along with their child. Other communication models, based in spoken English, exist apart from ASL, including oral, auditory-verbal, and cued speech.
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