"Mister Rogers' ASL Friends"

Advancing early language acquisition for deaf children through quality educational programming in American Sign Language.

Informational Video Series

James DeBee
Producer & Director

Kim Nussbaum
Founder & President

Susan Di Iorio Miller
Vice President

Dr. Paul Nussbaum
Brain Health & ASL

Mary Lou Novitsky
Producer & Host- Biography

Mary Lou Novitsky
Producer & Host- ASL Project

Special Thanks to the Senator John Heinz History Center

Any funds solicited for ASL Friends, Inc. are not being solicited by, or on behalf of, Fred Rogers Productions.

Watch DVD Preview

Viewing Tips

Follow your child’s lead
  • Allow the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends DVD to be within your child’s reach so they can let you know when they are ready to view the program.
  • If your child walks away from the program or lacks interest, turn the television off and explore other activities, including sleep!
  • Sleep is an underrated activity, and often not considered an activity at all. Yet sleep or quiet time alone is a vital time for the brain to consolidate information and all the new learning a young mind is experiencing.
Healthy Habits
  • If you allow 30-minutes a day to view the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends DVD together with your child, this routine may create cherished memories.
  • When you view the program with your child, allow your child to initiate communication.
  • They may ask you a question or comment on a character. This is a good time to add to their knowledge by agreeing with their comment and adding a new sign.
  • If your child prefers not to communicate during the program, it does not mean they do not need you by their side. It may mean they are concentrating on the program.  Save your conversation and questions for afterward.
Allow for Repetition
  • It is a natural phase in early childhood, especially when a child is acquiring language, for a child to repeat and repeat and repeat words or phrases and/or signs.
  • Your child may ask to view the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends DVD again and again!
Limit Television Watching
  • While repeated viewing should be encouraged, be careful to monitor the amount of screen time your child spends. Be sure to take breaks between programs.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 years old watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming


    Target Audience
    • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was intended for the preschool audience of 3-5-year-olds. Our research shows that deaf and hard-of-hearing children with language delay may enjoy the program between 3 and 8 years of age.
    • Parents and family members with children under the age of 2 years, may still benefit from watching the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends DVD to learn signs.
    • Remember, your infant or young toddler may understand the signs you use before they learn to sign themselves! YOU are their language model!!!

    *Adapted from the copyrighted “What Makes Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Unique?” and used with permission from the Fred Rogers Productions.

    Getting the Most from Mister Rogers Neighborhood*

    Watch with your child if you can.

    Mister Rogers often asks questions or leaves silent time for children to think about what he’s said.  When you are nearby you can observe your child’s reactions.  Just having you there can make something more meaningful for your child.

    Suggest play or activities from the ideas offered on the program.

    You’ll find lots of ideas in the things Mister Rogers shows and does.  The Mister Rogers’ Plan & Play Book offers ideas and activities to match every program.

    Discuss the program with your child.

    Discuss what happened during the program. How do they think a person or puppet felt?  Have they ever felt that way?  When you listen to your child’s ideas and when you share your own, you’re saying “I care about you.”

    Use the Neighborhood in everyday situations.

    Because Mister Rogers sings and talks about common experiences in childhood, you might find many times during the day when you can refer to his songs, his “important talk” and other things that have happened during his visits in your home.


    In our mission to provide quality ASL language models to young deaf children, we have identified the work of Fred Rogers to be an extremely valuable resource for child development and language acquisition.  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood  provides a rich language model for deaf children when paired with native Deaf signers. 



    Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (MRN) was the longest-running children’s television program broadcast in the United States for over 30 years from 1967-2001 on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  In 2019, MRN celebrated its 50th Anniversary!


    • Mister Rogers modeled language by pairing words with concrete items, such as pointing to the fish while discussing feeding the fish

    • Promoted self-esteem and unity among diverse groups of people

    • Demonstrated a positive influence when faced with challenges such as sadness, frustration, and anger

    Fred Rogers

    • Creator, song/script writer, pianist, and puppeteer
    • Studied Child Development with Dr. Margaret McFarland, Director or the Arsenal Family and Children’s Center in Pittsburgh as well as Dr. Benjamin Spock and Professor Erik Erikson
    • Ordained Presbyterian Minister
    • Attended Dartmouth and Rollins College
    • Born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania 1928

    Meet the Producer

    James DeBee has been with the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends project since 1996 when he suggested that Deaf signers be used instead of a hearing interpreter. This concept combined with DeBee’s expertise in production have contributed significantly to the project’s success.

    In 1985, DeBee garnered two “ACE” awards, the National Cable Television Association’s Emmy, as best television series for special audiences and outstanding programming achievement for The Los Angeles Club for the Deaf Story documentary depicting the rise and fall of a well-known Deaf club.

    Founder of DeBee Communications Corporation, his vision was to promote positive and realistic videotapes and films, especially about Deaf people, their language, culture, and so forth, and to provide accurate cultural information which may clear up many damaging myths and stereotypes.  James decided to retire DeBee Communications in 2018, but he left a rich legacy of resources for generations to come.

    By expertly directing Deaf signers through the ASL adapted script and meticulously editing the signers onto the original Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode, DeBee established the format for future Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends productions by leading the pilot project from start to finish.

    James DeBee is a Pittsburgh native and graduate of the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.  Together with his wife Joanne they have raised three daughters.  They are currently enjoying life in New Mexico.

    Pilot DVD Research

    How long does child attend to the pilot DVD?

    4.40 Avg
    (Scale 1-5, 5 =100%)

    Does child like the pilot DVD?

    4.15 Avg
    (Scale 1-5, 5=Positive)

    Does the parent like the pilot DVD?

    4.27 Avg
    (Scale 1-5, 5 =Positive)

    Would the parent recommend the program to other families with deaf children?

    4.31 Avg
    (Scale 1-5, 5 =Positive)

    Would parent like to see more ASL Signers on MRN episodes produced?

    4.58 Avg
    (Scale 1-5, 5 = Positive)

    View the Research

    Fluent deaf signers act in pilot DVD of Mister Roger’s ASL Friends to serve as a home ASL language model for young deaf children and their families.

    Participating Schools

    Over 35 schools participated in our research study to evaluate our pilot “Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends” DVD.


    Endeavor Article

    The American Society for Deaf Children’s Endeavor Magazine featured the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends pilot video and its research.


    “The whole DVD was wonderful!  My child really enjoyed the program and wanted to watch more!  We hope there will be additional productions of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with ASL.  It was really nice to see my daughter have access to and enjoying something that I loved as a child.”

    -S.O., Hawaii

    “I thoroughly enjoyed watching this DVD.  I am constantly trying to improve my signing skills.  I as a parent of a deaf child am learning ways to improve my sign skill.  The way Roger Vass portrayed Mr. McFeely’s mannerisms while signing emphasized the importance of facial expression and body language to help convey the signed message.  Thank you!”

    -K.H., Ohio

    “I’d use this right now in my Parent-Infant teacher training classes.”

    -Diane Klein, Ph.D.
    Professor Hearing Program, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

    “It’s great to see a children’s show that has actual signing rather than reading captions.”  

    -B.B., West Virginia

    “Please produce more, especially for small deaf children so they can watch and see sign.  With closed caption, deaf small children are not ready to read yet.  Perfect for them to watch sign.”                          

    -Anonymous, American School for the Deaf

    “I think this project is great!  It will give us an opportunity to teach ASL, language, literacy, and character development.  I am ready to buy right now.”

    Dr. Monita Hara

    Director, Louisiana School for the Deaf

    “It’s a definite enhancement to captions and makes it more accessible to toddlers who are emerging readers.”

    Dr. Larry S. Taub

    Head of School, Pennsylvania School for the Deaf

    “Watching the video-what a great way to provide a sign model to our young children who are deaf!”

    Kimberly White

    Teacher of the Deaf, Pittsburgh, PA

    “This was great!  We were glad to be re-introduced to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and would be delighted to have more episodes with ASL signers available.”


    Parent, Indiana

    “My daughter and both sons watched the video with me and they asked to see it a second time.  They did not get bored.”


    Parent, Florida

    View Letter of Support

    The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy issues its support to the Mister Rogers’ ASL Friends pilot video

    Give to ASL Friends!

    Thank you for joining our efforts to make Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood accessible through American Sign Language.

    Any funds solicited for ASL Friends, Inc. are not being solicited by, or on behalf of, Fred Rogers Productions.