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Campus Connection - American Sign Language in our schools

Article Date: 
19 October, 2012 (All day)

Kim Cox CI/CT, is a certified sign language interpreter.  She currently works with staff and students at Morgan Elementary School.
Public Law 94-142 titled the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted by Congress in 1975.  Between 1975 and today the concept of providing educational protection for students, and direction for local school districts, has been reauthorized and changed in several specific ways.  Today we have the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) which articulates these protections.  For students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (HOH), this could mean, based on need, a connection to school through a sign language interpreter.
Educational interpreters provide communication access to students who are deaf or HOH by accurately representing classroom instruction, teacher/student dialogue, and relevant sound information in the mode of communication used by the student.  In the school setting, an interpreter’s role becomes more complex than community interpreting because the student is not just a “mini adult” who is deaf or HOH.  The interpreter will be taking into consideration an individual student’s language level, academic competency, social/emotional development, and interpersonal skills, as well as the professional guidelines of the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), school, district, and state in which he/she is employed.
In the state of Utah, an interpreter must by law be certified.  Utah’s interpreter certification testing includes two parts: (1) written exam and (2) performance testing.  Both parts must be completed and passed in order to attain certification.  In addition to the State of Utah Interpreter Certification, the Utah State Board of Education recognizes four other types of certifications including the EIPA (Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment) and a National Certification.
Often, because of the presence of an interpreter in a classroom, teachers will choose to incorporate the use of American Sign Language (ASL) into the daily instruction for all students.  Many of our students at Morgan Elementary can now recite both The Pledge of Allegiance and The Star Spangled Banner in both English and ASL.  As exposure continues, students’ vocabulary grows quickly.  This is a major benefit for all students, not just those who are deaf or HOH.  However, this aspect allows those students increased opportunity for independent social interactions with their non-deaf, HOH peers.  For all students this means exposure has placed them on a road to becoming fluently bilingual. This educational opportunity can be continued when the student enters high school.  MCSD offers American Sign Language as a foreign language credit.  This is because ASL is a manual language with grammar and syntax distinct from any oral language.  ASL is not just “English on the hands,” which is often a typical misconception.  
Exposure to interpreters and ASL classes within our district will allow our students to learn about Deaf culture and become aware of the Deaf community here in Morgan and throughout the state. Our interpreters and teachers encourage our students to become involved and interact with their deaf and HOH peers, building a strong relationship and sense of belonging within our schools and community.