Sign Language Lessons

Parent Q&A

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  • My son wants to take ASL for his high school language credit. His school recommended Tilden Prep, BYU and Berkeley City College. Hoping parents on here can share their experiences with local programs? My son has ADHD and a language processing disorder so trying to find the best fit. 


    My daughter who has severe dyslexia, adhd, plus anxiety and some processing issues, took asl at bcc. She excelled! It was entirely online which worked for her.

    Berkeley City courses will be free for him, but you'll need to figure out if they fit in his HS schedule, last time I checked they were in the afternoons/evenings, but still online. Your school may offer discounts for the BYU course, Tilden will be the most expensive. Will online courses be ok for his ADHD? If not, I'd go with Tilden, which is probably your only option for in person. Good luck!


    My son took ASL as his foreign language because of dyslexia and ADHD.  He has taken ASL at BCC in person and through BYU.  I would say that a lot will depend on your son's motivation.  BCC is a regular class (not sure if they are in-person or on Zoom these days), taught by a professor.  BYU's classes are units that students complete on their own, interspersed with one-on-one TA sessions that you have to make sure to sign up for.  My son first worked with a private tutor and then took a BCC class before turning to BYU (BCC wasn't offering the class he needed at the time), and he found the course hard to navigate.  I have heard great things about Tilden Prep, but they are very expensive.

    I am happy to talk to you more about this if you'd like to get my info from the moderator.

    ASL is a wonderful language to learn, good for your son being interested!, I went to Berkeley City College many years ago and got my AA degree in ASL. It is a great program and I had amazing teachers. 2 years ago my son was a sophomore at Berkeley Independent Study, only 15, and he could have used more support than provided. He has ADHD. He wanted to take ASL too. He unfortunately had a terrible experience. He did not know he needed to sign up for Canvas - we didn’t really know about Canvas at the time and the teacher never pulled him aside to explain he needed to be on there (of course the full time students were aware but he was fresh from HS and not in the loop) The teacher didn't hand out announcements on paper or show a message on the board in class, everything was on Canvas, so he frequently missed crucial information. Then the pandemic hit and everything went to zoom. It was the first time any of us had done school on zoom! When they had a test the teacher expected them to make a video on YouTube of them signing and upload it but my son had trouble and got an F in the course. I did email to see if my son could do any make up work in order not to fail--the pandemic was a huge blow for so many kids! The teacher responded that I couldn’t be involved because of FERPA law (gives minors autonomy in City College)  My husband knows Gerard Di Pietro, another teacher at BCC, and he is warm and funny, has stellar reviews, and could be a better choice for your son (unfortunately his classes were at night and that is why my son couldn’t take his class due to sports conflict) Also to consider, though, is that at BCC, the classes are twice a week, 3 hours each time, so make sure that isn’t too much for your son.  I hope other folks can give you info on Tilden and BYU. You can contact me if you have any more questions!  I hope your son finds a way to take ASL!! It is truly a beautiful language.

  • My youngest (infant) son was recently identified as deaf. This set off a scramble in the house to find American Sign Language classes and mentors. So far, we've been able to find excellent classes for the adults and great resources for the baby, too. Whew.

    The last frontier is finding language support for baby's older brother, 3 1/2 years old. We're teaching him ourselves, and he's getting some exposure to other signing adults, but he'd benefit from better exposure to fluent ASL signers in a fun environment on a regular basis. The only local classes / support we can find for his age group are either CEID (which doesn't teach ASL, only SEE) or going down to CSD Freemont, which seems prohibitively distant (and which seems to start at age 5.) Does anyone know of ASL classes or playgroups for children his age, or an instructor who works well with little kids?

    Hey get hooked up with the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness in Berkeley, they will be able to steer you to everything you need: 
    excellent organization

    My daughter studied ASL and is currently volunteering at CEID so I told her about your letter. First of all, she was delighted to hear that you are all learning ASL. She has loved learning this language and learning about deaf culture. She also really loves working at CEID and suggested that they would be a great resource for you even if you didn't send your child there. Based on her experience there are children there with a variety of connections to deafness from being deaf to having a deaf family member and it sounds like there is a mix of ASL and SEE happening. You may want to try talking with them more in depth about your child's needs and see what they say. Kudos to you for embracing ASL!

    If you have a deaf infant, you should have a teacher of the deaf early intervention specialist working with your family and an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Those will be your best resources. Your IFSP should document your family's concerns and needs, so language support for your 3 year old should be added if it's not already included. In addition to weekly home visits, which can (and for you, sounds like they should) include your 3 year old, your teacher will be able to direct you to other resources your district offers. No matter where you live in the bay area, you can go to DCARA's website and sign up for a deaf mentor to work with your family. That's a deaf adult who will come to your home weekly and teach your whole family sign language. Other options depend on where you live. For example, in West Contra Costa residents, there's a weekly family class/playgroup you could attend with both kids, and your 3 year old might be eligible to be a "play pal" (hearing peer) at the deaf/hard of hearing preschool. Some other districts offer similar programs; ask your teacher, she'll get you hooked up. And all that is free!

    If you don't have success with that, come back and let us know where you live and who's administering your IFSP (which Regional Center, SELPA, or school district) and we may be able to give more specific suggestions.

    There’s DCARA in San Leandro. It has Deaf dance camp and literacy camps. Family mentors that come weekly to your house. Csd fremont has a great weekend camp there. Northern California helping hands ( I think that’s what it is called) have a bunch of fun activities like Deaf amusement park days etc . Contact me and I can help you. I was in the same place as you a few years ago. 

    Have you talked with the folks at CEID? I know their website still says they use SEE, but when I talked with them the director told me everyone there actually uses ASL. They have support for families -- including coming into the home and teaching. I would imagine this would include teaching siblings, as well. Might be worth reaching out, if you haven't already. And on CEID -- I should mention that they have a preschool, too, which has a group of hearing kids who are using ASL in the classroom.

    Hi there,

    Our infant son was also diagnosed with bilateral severe-profound hearing loss. He was born in April and it’s been a challenge finding other parents of deaf/hard of hearing children in the Bay. Would love to connect with you and talk about resources/mentors/childcare options. 

    Our OUSD infant specialist said she teaches a toddler sign class  I’m not sure if it’s for only DHH kids, but I could ask her  

    We we live in Rockridge  


    Hi, everyone, and thank you for the suggestions. We are already working with CEID—Jessica has been wonderful in helping coordinate IFSP for the baby—and with DCARA and their Deaf Mentor program (we love Malage and Kelly!) Our whole family has benefited greatly from both, but we're looking specifically for age-appropriate ASL classes, teachers or playgroups to support for our 3 year old, and haven't been able to find a resource through those avenues.

    Regarding CEID, their unclear situation vis-a-vis SEE and ASL gives us serious pause; we hear different things about the classroom environment from different people, both hearing, Deaf and CODA, and we'd very much prefer having both our sons in a program committed to ASL instruction.

    Per anonymous' suggestion, we are including language support for our older child in the IFSP, but our case manager at Berkeley Unified School district didn't have any strong ideas of what program might be appropriate for him. If anyone's currently using either Oakland or West Contra Costa's services, I'd be delighted to hear about it, and I'm reaching out privately to everyone who offered--thank you!

  • Sign Language Tutor needed

    (1 reply)

    Hello! Can anyone recommend a sign language tutor for our 4th grade daughter? She has expressed an interest in learning it. Ideally we'd love to have someone come to our home in Oakland, but we're open to other ideas too. Our priority is just to find the right person and go from there. Thank you for any suggestions!

    You might try contacting the staff at the Deaf Counseling and Referral Agency ( across from San Leandro BART. They offer classes and may be able to put you in touch with a possible tutor.

  • ASL for Teen?

    (4 replies)


    My 14 yo daughter (8th grade) has been teaching herself ASL for a while now. She would like to take a class. I just bought her an online one on groupon and found a school in SF that offers a four Saturday class (ABC language school), but it's rather expensive and we live in Oakland. I also know that Berkeley Community College offers it but that wouldn't work until next summer probably. Anyone know of anything else in the East Bay that meets once a week or so? Or perhaps a private teacher? Thanks very much.

    Berkeley city college is great. I earned my AA degree there in ASL many years ago. They used a program called "signing naturally" that was books and videos but not sure if they still use it or if you can order it... If she can't take classes there now, perhaps DCARA in San Leandro has some info. Just make sure that wherever it is they are teaching ASL and not c-sign or some other distorted version of the language. Good for your daughter, its a fun language. As she gets older, she can take 2 week summer intensive classes at Gallaudet University in Washington DC. I went there a few times and it is great -like full immersion. Good luck!

    My 15 year old is going to probably take her high school foreign language credits at Berkeley city college with ASL. Maybe starting in spring semester. Contact me via my user name, and we could possibly coordinate?

    My 14-year-old daughter is in the same situation! We looked into Berkeley City College, but the woman who runs the program let me know quite honestly that the commitment is really something for an older teen or college age. Maybe we can get a group together and find a teacher to meet one day after school?


    You could always contact DCARA. DCARA - Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency. They'd probably know.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Sign reading class for 12 year old

Dec 2009

My daughter is friendly with a deaf girl who has mainstreamed the last few years. Although her friend will be going to a special school for the deaf, my daughter has become very interested in sign language and wants to be able to communicate effectively with her friend. A vacation school would be great. We live in San Leandro, so the classes must be relatively close. all about signing

I wonder if volunteering to work with the preschoolers at CEID (Center for the Education of the Infant Deaf) in Berkeley might be a fun way to get acquainted with sign language (although they use SEE - sign exact English - instead of ASL). Mother of hearing impaired child

Class for 4-year-old to learn ASL

June 2007

my 4 year old picks up sign language well and is very interested to learn more. Is there anywhere in the Berkeley area that has classes for kids his age to learn real ASL? please email me if you have any tips. thanks! earl.and.christine

If you are interested in having your child learn American Sign Language, then I would recommend taking a class that uses ASL (like Signing Smart) rather than a class that teaches gestures and invented signs, which are used in the BabySigns program. ASL signing parent

There was misinformation presented here (June 12) about the Baby Signs\xae Program which we would like to clarify: The Baby Signs\xae Program does, in fact, use American Sign Language (ASL). The program also encourages parents to acknowledge and celebrate approximated signs and ''home'' signs their child may produce.

The Baby Signs\xae program is the original sign language program for hearing babies based on the breakthrough NIH-funded research of Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. Every other baby sign language program in existence today cites this research. Interestingly, this research was done on babies who were not using ASL signs, but rather ''home'' signs, and there has been no research done since then to show any advantage to using ASL signs exclusively.

The primary goal of the Baby Signs\xae program is to enhance communication and bonding between parents and children. Should a family be interested in American Sign Language as a second language, we encourage social contact with native ASL users and taking ASL courses taught in the foreign language department at many high schools and colleges.

We are three certified Baby Signs\xae instructors in the East Bay who use ASL in our classes and at home with our children. We welcome any questions from parents about signing with your babies.

Julie Corbett Baby Signs\xae Independent Certified Instructor Baby Signs\xae of the Bay Area

Summer ASL classes for visiting teen

May 2007

Hello ! My daughter Diane, 19, will be coming from France to Berkeley mid July with her father. She wishes to learn the American sign language during her stay. she studies linguistics in order to become a speech therapist. Do you have any idea about who she can contact ? Thank you for your help ! Dominique

Try Berkeley City College in downtown Berkeley. It is the college formerly know as Vista. I've heard that they have a great ASL program. Hopefully someone who has direct experience with the program will also respond. Non ASL Anon

While I don't know if classes will be available for the exact time that you need, I know that Berkeley City College has an ASL department and degree program and West Contra Costa Adult Ed ( also offers sign language classes, although those are not exactly ASL. Good Luck

Introducing ASL into high school curriculum

Feb 2007

The small private highschool my son attends has a limited foreign language program. I have asked about introducing American Sign Language (ASL) as an alternative for students struggling with the standard offerings of Spanish & French. Can anyone suggest an instructor, as well as the procedure necessary to get this class accredited as part of the school curriculum? (ASL meets the UC foreign language requirement). Or, does anyone know of a good ASL Summer program or private instructor in the Eastbay? ms

Vista Community College (now Berkeley City College) has a terrific ASL program, so you might look into whether or not your child could take ASL there and earn his or her high school foreign language credit. It's definitely worth looking into. One terrific advantage to taking ASL at the community college is that the folks there generally really WANT to be there, and so are much more motivated to learn, not just sitting through class to get through it. I also found that a each class developed a real sense of community and camaraderie--not a bad thing for a high school student to experience, either! nancy

Contra Costa College also has an ASL course and I know El Cerrito High students who have taken classes there and it went toward their foreign language requirement and was also accepted by the UC system (and meant that the student not only got HS credit but also earned college credit at the same time). soem of the students then were able to volunteer at the nearby grammar school that has a hearing impaired program (Harding). anon

Sign Language classes for 2-5 year olds

March 2006

Does anyone know of any place or person that offers ASL to children ages 2-5 in the Eastbay? Thanks melissa

Stacey Raye teaches sign language to pre-school aged and older children. My daughter took classes from her when she was younger and loved it. She is also the owner of Monkey Business Camp. Contact her at: monkeybusinesscamp [at] Melanie

I was able to find a deaf student from Ohlone College in Fremont to tutor me and my two kids (aged 1 and 3) in ASL. I would contact Vista College in Berkeley and Ohlone College and put a posting on their bulletin boards saying what you are interested in and when, if you have any ASL knowledge, are hearing or deaf and any other relevant info. We are delighted with the young woman we found, and having a deaf ASL teacher really forces you to learn faster in my opinion. Also, if you are interested in a playdate email me, maybe we can practice signing with each other and the kids. We are in Montclair. Nina

Sign-Language Interpreter for book reading

Aug 2005

Does anyone know a great sign-language interpreter who'd like to sign for about 10-15 minutes on August 18 and September 9 (San Francisco/Berkeley) at a bookstore as I read from a new novel? I would do everything I could to help publicize the interpreter's work. (Am also looking for interpreters in Beverly Hills, New York, Portland, but am based here). Wordhappy

Here are three options that I found while looking for the first. I have a friend who works for Deaf Services of Palo Alto and it seems to be a nice, well-run organization.

  Deaf Services of Palo Alto  P.O. Box 60651, Palo Alto, CA 94306  Voice: (650) 856-9262  Fax: (650) 856-1114  Contact: Janet Nystrom  Bay Area Communication Access (BACA)  870 Market Street, Suite 330, San Francisco, CA 94102  Voice: (415) 356-0405  Fax: (415) 356-0495  American Sign Language and tactile interpreting available.  Hands On Services  P.O. Box 418, Auburn, CA 95604-0418  Voice: (800) 900-9478  Fax: (800) 900-9477 

Sign language instruction at home for 6 and 10 year olds

June 2005

My husband and I and our children (ages 6 and 10) would like to learn ASL. I was taking an adult ed class and trying to bring it home to the family, but that was difficult. I would like to have someone come to our home to instruct us. I have contacted Vista College, but the person recommended is not available. I suppose we could watch an instructional video, but am worried that we will not be disciplined enough to advance in the language. Thanks for any thoughts on how we can successfully learn the basics of ASL. Jennifer

I highly recommend the ''Signing Time'' videos. They are fun, and have lots of songs some of which are quite challenging (try the ''silly pizza song'') The Berkeley Public Library has one of the videos, which is how we stumbled upon them. Since then we bought all 6 of the DVDs and watch them again and again. They are geared towards younger children (zero to 6) but there's lots for all ages. See the songs that are signed in the credits and Rachel Coleman's introduction which is spoken and signed to see how the language is put together. Also see Michigan State University's ASL site browser.htm for quicktime videos for vocabulary building. Have Fun! River

ASL for three-year-old

April 2003

I'm looking to teach my daughter sign language. Does anyone know of a ASL class for three year olds? Thanks in advance.

Hi, I did not see any follow-up posts to your query about ASL classes for a three-year old, so I wanted to offer my two cents. As far as I know, there are no ASL classes for hearing children in this area. It wasn't clear to me from your post whether or not you know ASL yourself, but of course one way to teach your child ASL is to take a class or two yourself. Vista College in Berkeley has an amazing ASL program, with many classes both day and evening. Another thought is for you to take your child to one of the many Deaf events happening in this area. My impression is that most of the things for kids are in Fremont, where the school for the Deaf is located. They often have plays, storytelling events, etc. you could bring your child to. I think Barnes and Noble in Fremont still has ASL storytime as well- I don't know the days and times, but I'm sure you could find out. There is a website called that lists many events in the area. I'd be happy to offer you more resources- please feel free to email me. I'd also be interested to learn more about your situation, and might be able to offer better advice if I know why you are interested (for example, I believe an agency called DCARA offers ASL for family members of Deaf people.) I wish I could enroll my 2 year old in a class- I sign some, but I'd love it if she could learn in a class. Good luck! Kelly

There was a posting for a baby sign class in the most recent announcements, Saturdays in Emeryville, I think. It may not be an ASL class, as I believe the book they are basing the class uses some kind of pidgin sign. The Oakland museum often has a kids day for deaf and hearing families. Deaf Media is an excellent resource for finding out abt events in the East Bay. hope that helps

Teacher for after-school classes for hearing children

Oct 2003

I'm trying to find a sign language teacher to instruct hearing elementary school students in an after school enrichment class. Any suggestions for teachers, or for organizations that might have some leads? Susan

Kirk Long teaches at the Piedmont Adult School. He is EXCELLENT! Very enthusiastic, stays with the level of his audience, makes sure to check-in once in a while to ensure the students are picking up the language. He also makes learning a lot of fun (a huge requirement for young students). I'm sure you could get his contact info. from the school. Former S.L. student

I would suggest contacting the ASL program at Vista College. They have many great teachers there who might be willing to teach another class. If not, they could probably offer you some resources. kelly

I'm probably not the only person who'll suggest this, but try contacting Vista Community College in downtown Berkeley. They have a terrific American Sign Language depertment, and would, I'm sure, love to help you out. The department's phone number is 981-2872.

In your search, remember that American Sign Language is not the same as SEE, or Signed Exact English, which is what some people use. The majority of the American Deaf community uses ASL; SEE seems to be used primarily by hearing families with a deaf child. Just a note so that you get what you want. Nancy

Sign Language for Older KIds & Adults


I believe the Albany Parks and Recreation Dept. offers sign language classes from time to time at the Albany Community Center (1249 Marin). Unfortunately, as I remember, the classes may only be offered weekday afternoons, which may not work for you. But you may want to give them a call: 524-9283. Greg

From: ann smith
Hi there. I have much to share on this subject. I have been trained as an interpretr and have worked for the California School for the Deaf, Fremont. I am currently working with a few others in the field to develop a non-profit organization to provide resource/ referral services to hearing parents of deaf children (over 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents). I also provide private tutor lessons and am interested in coordinating a group for this purpose. Feel free to give me a call at home 510/741-5513.

Vista College (Milva and Addison) has nationally recognized sign language certificate and interpreter training programs. You might call the program administrator to see if one of the advanced students, or even one of the teachers, would be interested in working with your daughter or her pre-school. When I took sign there several years ago, one of the final exams was to sign a kids story. This might be something fun for the kids at the pre-school to practice. I recall one student signed a rather memorable version of Are You My Mama? Another thought is to try the Disabled Students program on campus (642-0518). Maybe a hearing-impaired college student would be interested in some occasional babysitting! Joyce

Taking ASL to satisfy foreign language requirement

April 2002

Does anyone have experience with a teen taking ASL (American Sign Language) courses as their foreign language in high school? I have heard that this is possible, and would like to know how it works for kids at Berkeley High.

My son is a Freshman now. I have found the web listing for the program at Vista, but it looks like the day classes in the Fall are long (9:30 to 12:30), which would not fit into a BHS schedule. Evenings are a possibility, but that would make for a very long day.

Any information about ASL programs or how this has worked for teens you know will be very appreciated. Thanks,

When my daughter was a sophomore at BHS she began taking ASL classes at Vista. Over the next three years she took five classes. She enjoyed them very much (she was unhappy with one of the teachers, the others ranged from terrific to ok). She not only learned a second language but also got a glimpse into the culture of the deaf. (All of her teachers were deaf.) Some of her Vista classes were held on Cal's campus which she also enjoyed. Most of the classes had to be taken at night. It did pose a problem and made for a long day, but she/we found a way to manage it. There were a couple of high school students in each of the classes - some from Berkeley High School, one from Lick Wilmerding. Most, but not all, of the other high school students had some LD issue that brought them to ASL. Part of the time, I was able to work out a carpool system. The majority of the other students were adults either wanting to learn ASL for work or because a family member was deaf. On one occasion a whole family including the deaf child took the class. That class was a particularly rich educational experience. My daughter will be attending UC San Diego in the fall. UCSD offers ASL and accepts Vista credits. Consequently, after one more ASL class at UCSD my daughter will probably be able to test out of the language requirement. Her experiences with ASL will remain an important part of who she is. Please feel free to call me if you have further questions. I'm sure my daughter would be willing to talk to your son. Christina

My HS junior daughter has taken ASL (after hating French) at Vista starting in 10th grade. It's pretty simple to enroll: your child needs a form for concurrent enrollment (available from the counselors), which is filled out by the student and signed by a parent, the HS principal and counselor and taken to Vista. They then get HS credit. The only feasible way to do this is evening classes; the daytime schedule just doesn't fit in with HS. It does mean that on those days they have to budget their time VERY carefully--there's not a whole lot of time for other homework (or dinner) when they have a 6:30-9:30 pm class. It's a great progam and there are usually a # of other HS kids in these classes. The program is fabulous. If you want more info on the program, contact the ASLdept at Vista. I'd be glad to answer any other ?s you might have about the mechanics of having a HS student in the program. Ellen

Does Vista have a summer program as well as a school year program? He could start this summer and follow up with some videos until he can take another class.

The Captioned Media Program sponsored by National Association of the Deaf has a program where one can get free videos for their homes or classrooms. All they request is that you fill out an evaluation upon returning the video. They mail the videos and include free return label for you. There are all kinds of video tapes about signing.

They really have an excellent video collection. It is an excellent resource and they are trying hard to get the word out.

  Information         Voice   800-237-6213         TTY     800-237-6819         FAX     800-538-5636         e-mail  info AT         Website 

Teachers with hearing impaired students -- this resource is AMAZING.
Flora Russ -- Berkeley High School

My son has taken ASL through VISTA in the everning for two semesters. He has enjoyed it quite a bit. Betty Ann is a wonderful teacher who usually teaches the first semester class (I even sat in on her class when I could!). He has one teacher who was not great and withdrew from that class. His last teacher (Dudis was quite good). The second semester is quite a bit more difficult than the first (it gets much more serious). There are also classes in fingerspelling and classifiers. The one forewarning is that BHS has not counted the one college semester as two high school semesters but has given him 7 units (instead of 10) for each semester so to fufill some college prerequisites, he will have to take a least one more course. This was also another friends experience and appears to be nonnegotiable with BHS. Make sure your student checks off that he is taking the course for high school credit on the VISTA paperwork (rather than college credit). rslam

I would like to respond to the person asking about American Sign Language. I am an interpreter and a parent of a deaf teen. I know that many colleges and universities now accept ASL for a language requirement. Vista has some summer programs and used to offer classes during the school year just for high schoolers. I have also taught ASL in the Berkeley schools, and would be interested in private, or small class lessons. Thanks. silver