In Support of American Sign Language for Dyslexics’ Education
ASL is an important language to learn because it is a multi sensory language that aligns to how dyslexics learn. Like Orton-Gillingham which is taught here at Kildonan, ASL is a hands-on and visual language. To learn ASL, you have to use your hands, body, and facial expressions to make symbols to communicate with the deaf.
Dyslexic learners need choice
It is important to have more than one choice of a language in our curriculum for dyslexic learners. ASL is a beautiful language; it is also rich in culture. People such as anthropologists and folklorists continue to study deaf culture and communication. Many people are interested in learning another language and want other options in school besides Spanish. It gives people the opportunity to not only learn a new language but to become part of another culture. Learning ASL opens job opportunities in business, education, and government. For example, when our President gets up to talk or give a speech, you always see an interpreter by his side. One other example is at a sports game; someone is always signing the National Anthem.
Considering Deaf Culture
It is estimated that 1 in 20 people are deaf and hard of hearing in the United States. Although medical research has developed cochlear implants, they are not suitable for everyone. Through my EDGE project, talking to people, researching, and taking ASL at Kildonan, I have learned of the many pros and cons of those devices.
The pros to cochlear implants are that they give deaf people the ability to hear even though it is not 100%, and it lets them communicate in the hearing world. However, there are cons too. The cons are that a deaf person can have a certain amount of deafness where a cochlear will not work for them. Also, when a deaf person gets a cochlear, it takes time to adjust to it. It can make sounds like static or a screeching sound, which can be painful. Even when deaf people get cochlear implants, some of them still need to sign to communicate because they have deaf parents and deaf friends, and they cannot speak.
“Fixed” for dyslexics or hearing impaired
Through my studies and watching documentaries, I have learned that some deaf people choose not to get cochlear implants because they feel it takes away their identity and culture as a deaf person. After you get a cochlear, you have to go through months and sometimes years of speech therapy to learn how to speak. Many deaf people have to go through speech therapy because they have trouble forming words, hearing sounds, and getting their tongue to move. Doctors also say that cochlear’s’ fix deafness.
From what I have learned this really annoys deaf people because they do not want to be fixed; they love themselves and are content and happy. In fact, with a cochlear implant, you still will not have 100% of your hearing. It is just like telling a dyslexic they need to be fixed instead of focussing on educating dyslexic students properly. Cochlear implants are very expensive to get, around $30,000 for each implant. Not everyone can afford one or even wants one.
Considered a Foreign Language
Since my college search, I have found out that many colleges accept sign language as a foreign language. However, some do not have it in their curriculum but are open to the idea of me bringing it to them. With some research, I found out that colleges like Harvard have American Sign Language as part of their curriculum. In 2013, a study by The Modern Language Association said that ASL is the third-most enrolled language besides English. This link will show you that forty-five states in the US provide ASL as a language. https://www.nad.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/List_States_Recognizing_ASL.pdf
An Educators Perspective
In addition to my studies, I have talked to two sign language teachers and my deaf friend. Here is one quote from a sign language teacher below. Nicole Thorp has known sign language and deaf culture for a number of years and attended Gallaudet University (a college for deaf people) for summer camp one year.
“ASL. American Sign Language. The language where we not only learn how to communicate to speak to others with our hands, where we learn to listen to each other with our eyes. We live in a society where our eyes are locked down to our screens, where it makes us uncomfortable when people share too many expressions and feelings with us. Yet in the deaf culture, it’s the only way to communicate.
“To take a moment away from our screens and look at each other, eye to eye. Where we become sensitive to reading our faces, when we ask, ‘how are you,’ with a concerned face, an excited face, an empathetic face..deaf culture teaches us to let our walls down and accept this form of communicating. Because for some, it’s the only way.
“When a deaf person finds out you’re learning their language, to communicate with them, I tell you, each and every one has always had the same reaction. Respect, awe, gratitude. It’s a way to connect to one another. It’s a language that does not require writing, instead writing with our facial expressions and emotions. Yes it has its own culture, it’s own grammar, yet is such a loving, forgiving, and understanding culture. Where perfection doesn’t feel necessary, because the effort is admired and adored. There’s more patience, more love. What better thing to teach our children, our adults, our society, we can all benefit from learning this beautiful language. Let’s connect the world a little more.” – Nicole Thorp
Should Kildonan teach ASL to dyslexics?
To conclude, American Sign Language should stay in the Kildonan curriculum because it is a great language for dyslexics to learn. Sign language will be around for a very long time so it is important to teach the language and to introduce people to its culture. I know ASL has helped many people whether they are deaf or not. Just last night on the news, a fireman was able to communicate with a little boy through sign language. I feel strongly that we should not take that away. Opportunities to learn another language are very important. Why not enrich students and give them a choice and support a wide range of ways to educate dyslexics?