Let's Talk About Tian

Most of my posts about language development have centered on Travis, who is deaf.  His language progress has intrigued me because 1: he's my first deaf child 2: he came to us having been exposed to no formal language.

Tian, however, has made amazing language strides in his own right!  When we first read his file, we assumed he was at least hard-of-hearing, if not deaf.  As we read more about microtia and atresia and got more information on Tian, we quickly realized we needed to keep an open mind because he most probably could hear.  Now that he's been home with us almost 6 months, we can tell that he not only can hear, but seems to have keen hearing in many circumstances.  Just this morning, he heard the faint sound of a faraway helicopter outside, perked up and signed, "helicopter!"  Other times, it seems he doesn't hear some things, but that may just be his age.

Obviously, he doesn't have complete hearing in his right ear.  That's evidenced in the fact that the canal is closed and in how he turns a complete 360 degrees to look for a sound coming from his right.

When we first met Tian, he was two day away from his second birthday.  He would say about three things in Mandarin that sounded to us like "way-uh" "doe-uh" and "nye."  We were told that he was just babbling, but that one phrase meant "go" and another meant "here we are" or "we are here."  Other than that, he wasn't talking.  Reports given to us by his foster family and welfare institute also said he wasn't speaking.  I've showed him photos of his foster mom, who I'm told was referred to as "nie nie" (grandmother), but have never gotten him to say it verbally.  We've also had Chinese friends, both in China and here at home, count to ten to try to get him to repeat the words, but he never would.

In the almost six months we've had him, Tian's language has grown exponentially in both ASL and spoken English.  For the first two months home, Tian would speak and gesture very generically.  He couldn't form the "I love you" hand-shape among others, but would try to sign as best he could with his limited fine-motor skills.  Over the past couple of months, he's been able to form the "I love you" hand-shape and a lot more!  It's been fun to see his ASL vocabulary grow.  He's speaking less and signing more, which doesn't concern us in the least.  He overhears plenty of spoken language and does verbalize quite a bit, so if signing is his preference right now, we know that won't harm him in the least.  (I can't wait until he grows up so we can prove this fact.)

When he wakes from a nap, the first thing he does is ask (signing),"Where's Travis?"
He says/signs "better!"  For example, yesterday, the batteries in his airplane were drained. He brought the airplane to me, signing, "broken."  I told him we needed to put in new batteries. (He also signs "batteries.")  After the batteries were replaced, he ran into his room, tested it out, then ran back in to me signing/saying "better!"
He says "Potty" and "pew peewww."  The way he signs "poop" is too cute.  He signs is correctly but upside-down.
Another cute word he says and signs is "hot toto!" (cocoa)  He signs "HOT CHOCOLATE."

He corrects his brother, which drives Travis crazy.  The other day, Travis was sitting on the couch, unhappy about whatever was happening, kicking his feet.  Tian walked over to Travis, pushed down on his ankles, attempted to "flick" Travis' leg, then signed, "NO NO! UNDERSTAND?"

Here are a few pictures and videos of Tian. Enjoy!


  1. Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your lives with all of us. I love seeing the progress both Travis and Tian are making in a comfortable environment full of love and rich in language. I can't wait for you to prove the skeptics wrong concerning Tian's use of ASL now(even though he has enough hearing to speak)and how that will benefit him (as a whole being) as he continues to grow up.

  2. Hi Sarah!
    I have so enjoyed reading your blog. A friend of mine pointed it out to me when I mentioned the idea of adopting a Deaf child in Russia. So I'd love to talk with you some about all of this! I'm single, 35, hearing, and have only taken 1 semester of ASL, but LOVE IT. My ASL prof told us that most Deaf children are born to hearing parents, and most of those parents don't learn ASL -- I was horrified at hearing this! I've ALWAYS wanted to adopt, and when I "heard" that, I thought, "Sheesh, I could adopt a Deaf child, learn ASL, and give them every opportunity possible."

    Anyway, if you have time and are interested in chatting, my email address is yediyd AT gmail


  3. Your family is SO inspiring to me!!! I'm a teacher for preK-K deaf and hard of hearing students. Your family is SO inspiring to me!!! I hope one day I can have the chance to adopt deaf/hoh child!

    Does it seem like Tian's hearing vary on each day? If yes, it could be auditory neuropathy.

    Also, I know if you adopt a special needs child in the US it's free and the gov't pays you monthly. Right? I could be wrong. Anyways do you have any information on if it would cost or how much it costs on average to adopt internationally?

    Thank you and God Bless!



  4. Just wanted to say that I'm a deaf mom with a hearing daughter whose first language was ASL. When she was about two she knew about 250 words and was very expressive in ASL, but her pediatrician was concerned that she wasn't *speaking.* I held firm and let her sign as long as she wanted to -- she started speaking in earnest a few months later, and hasn't really shut up since. :-D

    I mention it though because she's now 11 and is extremely advanced linguistically (reading at the college level, huge vocabulary, in gifted programs), so don't worry about Tian signing now if he wants to! I really think that helps with overall language skills.

  5. Thank you for sharing your family with us. I am a DHH teacher who is passionate about literacy and language development.
    You and your family are God's gift to all educators.
    I just wanted you to know that I'm grateful for your family. God bless


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Review: Maya Chan Beach Resort In Costa Maya, Mexico

Travis Update Ending 2013

2022 Year In Review