October 2007


(Copying from a web-based article in the newspaper called Visalia Times-Delta. Link is http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007710010334. Thanks to Katherine Carlsen for alerting me to this! Visalia is a city located in central California, not far from Fresno. –Ella)

Rally for sign language
Knowledge helps children in future learning
By Hillary S. Meeks
Staff writer

When Cathi Ables finally learned sign language at age 21, a whole new world was revealed to her.

“It helped build up my confidence, overcome my weakness and my embarrassment for being deaf,” she said.

Though she has some hearing, Ables found learning American Sign Language to be a helpful tool in both school and her personal life. She was never taught sign language in school and relied on her self-taught ability to read lips in order to communicate.

The idea that hearing-impaired children should avoid sign language and focus on other methods of communication is a trend that occurs every 20 to 30 years, according to interpreter Katie Benson. But she, and about a dozen other Visalia residents rallied Saturday afternoon at the corner of Mooney Boulevard and Caldwell Avenue to support the use of sign language.

“Deaf children who get to learn ASL have the opportunity to be more fluent in English later,” she said. “But the ones who do not learn ASL and are taught English first never establish a solid language foundation. They are the ones who are behind.”

As a young child, Ables said she struggled to keep up in the classroom because her teacher believed that sign language would be a hindrance to her learning how to read and talk.

“I had no idea what was going on in class,” she said. “I couldn’t hear the teacher, and I kind of just watched the other students to see what we were doing.”

While it is still a battle to ensure that young deaf children learn both American Sign Language and English in school, Ables said she knows that programs have become better.

“I grew up in Hanford, and now they have a deaf program in the schools there,” she said. “That would have really helped me.”

For Kathy Carlsen, an ASL teacher at College of the Sequoias, sign language makes it able for her to communicate to the rest of her family. Even her young grandson has learned it, so he can talk to Carlsen.

“Sign language, hearing people can learn. Deaf people can’t learn how to hear,” she signed, and her friend Marybeth Yates interpreted.

Yates is currently going back to school to refreshen her skills as an interpreter. She first learned sign language when her daughter was having hearing problems.

Though her daughter has had surgeries and regained her hearing, the experience left Yates with a desire to help the deaf community.

Her two daughters were with her at the rally, both enthusiastically holding up signs supporting their cause.

“I want them to support deaf culture and to know that it is very important to speak to people in their language,” Yates explained.

# The reporter can be reached at hmeeks@visalia.gannett.com.

(This is a combination of two email messages from Star Greiser — President of Southeastern Virginia Society of the Deaf — describing the successful rally her group had on September 29, 2007. This is indeed inspiring! –Ella)

It was a wonderful day – a wonderful rally… very emotional for many people. Tears were running down our cheeks for straight hours! About 200 Deaf, hard of hearing, hearing, ASL students, interpreters, parents of deaf children came out for the event: the kids had a blast playing in the water fountain in the back while the adults were attending matters of ! consequence.

And get this! A police officer on bicycle patrol walked over to our rally and when realized what it was for, he wanted to talk to me so badly. He was very emotional and intent on talking to me! It turns out the officer’s son is deaf and has no idea how to parent a deaf child for lack of resources and information. We were able to get some information to him before he was called out again. Serendipity!!!

This rally was an amazing first success in our community! Please see below for the link to pictures…

“http://picasaweb.google.com/shanrid/Rally”

“http://picasaweb.google.com/Roxieslens/SVSDSeptember292007”

I hope this has a lasting ripple effect in the local community and spreads outward to the state and the nation. This is just the first step. The mission of our group, Southeastern Virginia Society of the Deaf, is to establish a community-based resource center for Deaf people and parents of the Deaf children. We are also gathering momentum in creating a coalition for deaf ed reform in the state of Virginia and hope to eventually establish a bilingual charter school for deaf children in the Hampton Roads… these are big dreams and we have a long way to go in this fight, but I do believe we will one day get there.

I also realized this was the only rally of this type that I know of (I haven’t heard of others) held in the state of Virginia… Gallaudet had their rally on the 28th – but they also have a ready-made audience of attendees.

We live in Southeastern Virginia where Deaf-positive information/resources and parental resources to both the Deaf community and to the general commuity are almost nonexistent… we still drew a large crowd and a little media attention! Not bad! *Grins!*

We had a hearing parent of a Deaf child speak about her journey with her child and how she chose to learn ASL for her toddler and surround her daughter with Deaf adult language role models instead of implanting her child with a CI and going the AVT route. She said her daughter (at age 2) already exhibits such brilliance through her natural language.

AFter the mother’s speech, one of our local Deaf performers performed your poem: “To a Hearing Mother, by Ella Mae Lentz” to reach out to the hearing parents in our audience.

Everything was just so magnificant. It’s hard to believe that it’s over so quickly! Already looking forward to next years! *Grins!*

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