Every child should be able to communicate in a way that works best for them.
People start communicating from the moment they enter the world usually through cries, faces, grunts and squeals. Once infants move into the toddler phase the combine all of their previous communication skills with pointing and saying a few frequently used words like "milk," "mama," "dada" and "eat."
Children who are born without the ability to hear often still go through those same stages with the exception of their frequently used words being in sign language. But not all hearing parents know sign language, which can stunt the language skills of their non-hearing child. Ronnie McKenzie is an American Sign Language advocate that uses social media to teach others how to sign so deaf and nonverbal kids don't feel left out.
"But seriously i felt so isolated 50% of my life especially being outside of school i had NONE to sign ASL with. Imagine being restricted from your own language," McKenzie writes in his caption.
The dad explains that he was the only deaf child on both sides of his family and no one spoke ASL to him outside of school. Because of his experience feeling isolated within his own family, he decided to build his social media platform around ASL literacy, his followers look forward to his daily lessons. Parents and teachers of deaf and nonverbal children thank him for the work he's doing and often request certain signs to help them communicate.
McKenzie advocates that ASL become a language taught in elementary schools as a standard part of curriculum so students are able to effectively communicate with everyone around them. In one of his more recent videos, he teaches parents how to sign basic words children may need to know like, "pizza," "don't touch," and "follow me."
Parents and educators jumped into the comments to ask for help learning more signs.
"I work in school, and I would like to know school materials like: paper, crayons, pencil, paint, brushes, or words like: homework, test, recess. Thanks," someone writes.
"Can you do “gentle” or “careful”? Like for a toddler with a new baby at home," another asks.
"I love this so much. My son is non-verbal and struggles with learning any way to communicate. I feel me trying to learn ASL is something that will help him- I appreciate you, we all do," a commenter reveals.
Not everyone will pick up ASL quickly, but McKenzie's approach to repeat the signs three times and give signs for different situations that people frequently incur is likely most helpful. When learning a language, even our first language, we pick up on words used the most in familiar situations so giving context to the signs can help it stick. Hopefully more people are inspired to learn from McKenzie to make the world more accessible to others.