Our Little YouTube Stars

You all know I've been posting videos and blogging about the boys' language development.  This blog began as a way for friends, family and others interested in adoption to follow our journey to one son.  During that process, the one son became two sons and now here we are!  The Brown Seven!  Our most recent video has not gone "viral" according to YouTube standards, but it's gone viral according to our standards and it's been fun!  I've enjoyed receiving emails and comments from people all over the US and even other countries.

The boys have attached to us unusually well, so I didn't have a lot of "adoption issues" to blog about.  The focus of my blog naturally transitioned to the language development happening in our home.  Even with our backgrounds in the Deaf World (husband is Deaf, I'm a fluent signer for over 15 years), Ken and I were daily astounded at what we were seeing in front of our face.  So we began filming the boys when we could and sharing their progress online.

We had three birth children before adopting the boys.  Of course, we signed with all three of them and they could each sign before they could talk, but it was different with them.  We made some mistakes along the way, and Ken was gone all day at work, so the kids and I talked without signing the majority of our day.  The kids would sign in the evenings when Ken was home, but only if he was in the same room.  Because of this, we found ourselves having to work extra hard to play "catch up" around the time they were 8, 6, and 4.  Their speech had quickly passed their ASL ability, which is not a good thing when one of your parents is Deaf.  They could always sign, but during this time we realized we had all just gotten lazy and Ken and I had let them slide when it came to ASL fluency.  The younger two would often depend on the oldest to communicate for them.  Well, several arguments and a LOT of hard, strategic work later, the kids caught up.  I'm thankful we caught and corrected our mistake back then because they are truly, naturally bilingual.  It's a beautiful thing!

With the boys, it's been immensely different.  Ken and I learned from our mistakes the first time, so are much more strategic (I use that word often) in the way we communicate and require the boys to communicate back to us.  A contributing factor is that Travis is Deaf.  Since he's Deaf, the kids and I sign all day.  Tian has to sign in order to communicate with his best playmate, closest friend and brother.  The older Brownies model language to the boys all day long.  Ken and I do, the boys grandparents sign when we see them every week.  The consistant exposure to language that is accessible to them is the major reason the boys have progressed so quickly.  We homeschool, so both boys are exposed to ASL 24/7.  Tian hears us speak, too.  He hears the TV, radio, and lots of overheard conversation, so I don't worry about his speech.  When he does choose to talk, he's speaking very well.  He chooses to sign more often, which makes sense considering his environment.

I can't imagine where they would be if we had wasted these first six months with them taking them to audiologist appointments, speech classes, and trying to figure out language apart from their superhighway eyes!  Will we eventually do hearing aids?  Possibly for Tian, but it Travis is 100% Deaf, so hearing aids are pointless for him.  Will we do speech classes?  Yes!  We'll most likely try those out some time this year even.  It just won't be the center of our hopes, our joy, our world, or the value we place on the boys.

But I digress...

Tian came to us just two days before his second birthday.  We quickly realized he could hear well at least on his left side.  He would babble, but our Chinese guides told us that other than two "baby-talk" words, he wasn't saying anything understandable.  When spoken to in Mandarin, he seemed to understand a lot.  He would communicate with us by pointing, whining, crying, smiling, and saying two words we weren't sure about.

Travis, who had just turned three, came to us with ZERO language.  His only form of communication was pointing, crying, laughing or facial expressions.  He could hear absolutely nothing, so we knew that meant he had lived three years with no language.  When he was really upset, he would bang his head on the floor or crib.  He would hit himself on the head.  He would drool.  He would also giggle and laugh and smile when he was happy.
First evening together. Travis doesn't like Tian to get too close.
The head-banging stopped after about two or three days.  The drooling stopped a few days after that.  Within a week, he was communicating to us that he wanted to eat, drink, or go potty.  Now, six months after we first met, the boys can communicate way beyond basic needs.  They have more words than we can count.  Travis, being a year older, can pick out and identify objects as being the "same,"  loves "I Spy" books and can play Memory games.  He has started re-telling events.  For example, his sister told him that his Nana and Pappy were coming to visit and would be here soon.  A little later, when his dad came upstairs for lunch, Travis ran to him, tapped him, and told him that Nana and Pappy would be here soon.  Both boys are able to play with language, teasing us by knowingly using the wrong sign.  Travis teaches his little brother by holding his hand and forcing it into the correct shape.  I caught him doing this with the difficult-for-a-two-year-old word: GOAT.  I wish I could capture every moment on video, but I'll settle for these memories to live in my heart!

Thanks to all of you for following this blog and our You Tube channel.


  1. I love you blog so far! I came over via your most resent video, so cute!!! I loved this post. There are parts that I can totaly relate to. I'm a missonary at a Deaf school in Mexico. I have been the dorm mom here for almost seven years. The girls are with me September through May. Almost all of our students come knowing no sign. They come anywhere from are 4 to 14. It is always a joy to see them start signing and understading!!!! :) Blessings!

  2. It's so cool to watch the progress of the boys!

  3. So happy to have found your blog. Beth sent me this way! :) WOW oh WOW love to see all that is going on with you all! Looks like the boys are doing amazingly well. I would love to know how you caption your videos that you make. I dont seem to have that skill! I have a few of Lukes videos on you tube as well. To track his progress with ASL. He already loves to go back and look at them. He usually laughs at himself and says "wow I sign so much better then that now hahah" cant wait to see more of what you all are doing!!!

  4. I was adopted (from Korea) when I was little with no language to communicate. I pick up the pot and put on stove and poked my mom to cook something. Because I was hungry!

  5. I love your posts about the boys' language development and LOVED the video in the car. They are super cute and oh what blessings!


  6. I love hearing from all of you. Chris, it's been TOO long! I feel like I need to call you to catch up!
    Sam, I'm glad you posted. Love your communication story. :) I want the boys to meet you soon! (Deaf Nation, DFW?) You have much in common with them (Deaf, adopted, Asian) so are a good role model for the boys. :-D

  7. My kids (6, 3 & 2) love your YouTube videos. Gideon will ask if we can watch "the boys" again. I'm in the midst of teaching and catching my own kids up on sign language. I only had 1 bad ear in school, so I learned most of my sign in college. I'm so glad now that I failed to transition to the interpreting program, since I've lost so much more since marrying my husband 8 years ago.


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