Son criticises parents for refusing to learn sign language to communicate with his non-verbal sister

A son has shared that his parents refuse to communicate with their non-verbal daughter through sign language, prompting many to criticise the mother and father as “lazy” for not learning the method of communication.

In a viral Redditpost shared to the popular forum “Am I The A**hole” last week, Reddit user u/Maleficent_Round1611 described how his parents insist their non-verbal daughter use text-to-speech technology to communicate with them, rather than learn American Sign Language [ASL] themselves.

The son, 16, explained that his 23-year-old sister, who he calls Natalie, can no longer speak after she damaged her vocal cords in a car accident five years ago. “Natalie gets by very well with sign language, however, our parents have always refused to actually learn ASL,” he wrote. “They always insisted that Natalie could write anything out, that text-to-speech was good enough if she didn’t want to carry around a pen and paper. Most of her teachers were like that too, but I get it for them, she’s just one student and they’re busy. These are our parents.”

The brother, who did learn sign language, went on to say that his sister doesn’t want to “sit around and text with our parents” on the phone and would prefer to reply as fast as possible using ASL.

One day, he claimed to have overheard his parents “complaining” and “insulting” Natalie for this. He said he “blew up” at his parents while pointing out all of their friends and family members who have learned sign language since his sister’s accident. “So many people learned to sign for her, but never them,” he wrote.

“My parents got really angry at me and told me I couldn’t understand, then grounded me,” the teenage boy said, adding that his aunts then called him to criticise him further. “They told me that my parents both worked full time, had three kids to raise, both had church responsibilities, and that Natalie and I were brats for expecting them to learn a new language on top of that,” he wrote.

Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 people throughout the United States and Canada use American Sign Language to communicate. ASL has also claimed to be third most commonly used language in the US. However, the National Association of the Deaf says it can take a year or more to be able to comfortably sign.

The Reddit post, which has received more than 8,000 interactions and 1,000 comments since it was shared, prompted many users to defend the 16-year-old boy for speaking out against his parents’ refusal to communicate with their daughter through sign language. Many Redditors also felt the parents were feeling defensive about not learning ASL when they decided to ground their son.

“Parents should’ve been the first ones to learn ASL,” replied one user. “If ‘church responsibilities’ are more important than parental responsibilities, then they should get a reality check on what said church is teaching them. Also, it’s not Natalie who wants those long phone-calls, so they have to find a solution for them, not Natalie.”

Another user wrote: “I think your parents are just being defensive here,” while someone else said: “Your parents are lazy. Tell them to grow up and learn ASL. There is no excuse not to.”

However, someone else sympathised with the parents on the basis that “learning ASL as an adult can be extremely difficult,” before adding that “making an effort goes a long way.”

“If they want to talk to her more often and get closer, then just trying to learn ASL could be a great way to do that,” they explained.