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Gestures Aid Communication

gestures of thumbs up or thumbs down
An easy visual aid for “No” and “Yes”

by Chelle Wyatt

I teach a speechreading class at different senior centers through my work with the state. Every time I teach the class I learn a thing or two. It might be lip shapes of certain letters clicking in my brain at long last. It might be something I need to work on such as saying ‘zero’ instead of ‘oh’ when working with numbers. In life outside the classroom it was rephrasing which I brought back to my students. This last fall I learned how much gestures aid communication.

It’s a lesson in our book which I helped edit a year or so ago. The lesson is in there but I hadn’t given it credit until I watched my seniors struggle last fall learning to lipread. The more we relax, the easier lipreading gets but my seniors weren’t weren’t relaxing. They stared intently, not able to pick up the words in ‘lip speak’ (no voice). With the younger crowd I taught everyone the ASL alphabet and we used finger spelling for hints but my seniors weren’t picking up that up either. I sensed frustration so I encouraged them to use gestures if they saw the puzzled looks.  (Facial expressions are another lesson in our book.  Lipreading is a holistic practice, taking in my many things at once.)

At first they felt awkward, but after a few lessons of using gestures they became more comfortable with the idea. Then they started picking up the words faster, so fast I was amazed. Soon it became common practice with us and it introduced laughter. What happens when a speechreading class becomes fun? They relax. We still focus on the lips but gestures are now a habit for us.

My husband didn’t want to learn sign so much, although he learned the ASL alphabet to help me with words and names I was stuck on which was valuable to our communication.  All along he also used gestures when I was stuck. I laugh at his creativity but it works! And if I laugh the strain on my end disappears. I hadn’t given his gestures proper credit before teaching my class last fall and now I value it.

Gestures are often used at our SWC conventions and gatherings also.  When we are within our tribe, we tend to get more animated which means things get knocked over. Or we might accidentally whack someone beside us but no one minds much and laughter/smiles follow here too.

Gestures make communication easier for those with hearing loss.  Let’s all get animated in our conversations to encourage those in our life to use them as well. People pick that kind of thing up unconsciously, plus it’s fun!  Next time you’re stuck, ask for a gesture.

Mr Spoke, a Vulcan, uses his iconic gesture of good will
Live long and prosper.

2 thoughts on “Gestures Aid Communication”

  1. Thanks, Chelle!

    I can see how thumbs-up/thumbs down could help when the only difference I “hear” between “can” and “can’t” is just an extra split-second of time where the “t” is supposed to be. Sometimes it’s hard to get it clarified. But I’ll bet that if I asked, “Did you say you can (with my thumb up) or did you say you cannot (thumb down), I’d get a thumb-pointing response that would be WAY more clear than then just the sounds.

    Can you give us more examples of gestures you’re class is developing? I want inspiration!

  2. I would love it if people gestured/signed that their phone is ringing and they are going to answer it. I very rarely hear phones so I keep talking. If they gestured to me I would know and immediately shut up so they could answer it. Stop would be another good one, just holding their hand up palm out. In my class we have sets of words to go over with every lesson. Single words are harder to get and that’s why we started the gestures. It’s been fun how creative people get with them. “Seam” they draw a line with their finger over the seam of their shirt. I had “tail” the other day so I made drew a line up from my backside to make like a tail. lol There’s no limit. I can’t think of others right now but maybe others have suggestions for good, every day gestures that would help.

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