About Signing Savvy Video

By John Miller  |  Sunday, January 13, 2013

This video gives a brief overview of the Signing Savvy service and the inspiration behind it by one of the Signing Savvy founders, John Miller.  In addition to his work on Signing Savvy, John has been a teacher, educator, and administrator at the K-12 and University level.  His focus throughout his career has been on Deaf Education and working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and their parents.

Transcript of Video

Over 90% of deaf and hard of hearing children are born into hearing families. So that statistic alone is shocking for a lot of people to hear. But what that means is that over 90% of the children are coming home with a family that sign language is not their primary language.

People often ask me how it was that I got my start in sign language and where that interest came from. When I was a teenager, 12 or 13, and babysat for three little girls that lived across the street from me. And they were very close together in age, one, two, and three. The mother picked up pretty quickly that the middle child, the one that was two at the time when I started with her, wasn't responding and wasn't picking up the language that her sisters were. So after they did some testing they found out that she was in fact severe to profoundly deaf. And me as a twelve year old boy didn't really know how to help other than I wanted to.
 
So one thing that I could do is go to my local library and look for a sign language book. And I did that and learned the whole book really quickly and I took it back and tried to work with the little girl and work with the mom and get them to understand. And it was just a really neat experience for me to see that little girl for the first time in her life pick up on things and realize that there was a word for things and a way to ask for things and a way to communicate. So I really quickly learned that this was something that I really wanted to do with my life at a pretty young age.
 
The beauty of Signing Savvy to me is that it started out as this one vision (an online Sign Language Dictionary) but with everyone else who has jumped on board with it we have turned it into something that was beyond what any of us ever thought it could be.
 
It is so much more than just a book that you just open and look at a sign and go, "I think it is like this." You can actually click on that picture and you can see it come to life. It is so much more comprehensive and so much more inclusive than what a book would be.
 
I wanted something that could be a communication tool between school and home. A teacher can take the printing feature option and they can, after creating a word list of, let's say they are talking about vegetables in the classroom that week, they can create word lists of all the different vegetables and actually print those signs off onto cards that are sent home with the student. The children can sit down at the computer actually and be able to go through quizzes and (digital) flash cards and things like that they can do that study vegetables and then be able to go home and access that same teacher's word list.
 
We know that language cannot begin and end in the classroom. It has to continue on with home too. It is the parent's responsibility to do that in the home setting. It is the teacher's responsibility to do that at school. And it is everyone's responsibility to make that all mesh together enable to give our children the best opportunities possible.
 
I knew that there were other people out there that used sign language that were not necessarily deaf or hard of hearing but I did not realize to what magnitude it was. And I did not realize the outpouring of "thank you"s that we would get from people out there who stumbled upon our site for some reason or another that are so thankful because we have given them a voice - the people who have children with down syndrom, the people that have children with cognitive impairments, and, you know, the adults, I have a really touching letter from a young man who is in Afghanistan and lost his hearing from an accident there. And he said, "I did not have a voice, and you gave me back a voice."
 
We have the opportunity to make changes, to give children, adults, anybody who wants to a voice, a way to communicate that they may not have done before and it is exciting. It is exciting. And that is my passion. That's what I wanted to do (with Signing Savvy). It is so much more and so much deeper that I even thought was possible, but it is extremely rewarding.

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