It's never too late to broaden your horizons

Graphic by: Sarah Massey | Production Assistant

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) “two out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.” 

Ferris students will have a chance to learn American Sign Language (ASL) beginning Sept. 20. 

“When people see that I’m hard of hearing or I discuss my research, they often tell me about their interest to learn ASL and I encourage them to take classes,” Ferris adjunct instructor of anthropology, department of social and behavioral sciences Monica Rodriguez said. “There aren’t currently any other ASL classes locally, so Dr. Nichols-Whitehead and I thought it would be a good idea to have a class offered on campus.” 

Though Rodriguez has been at Ferris for one year, she is already aware of students’ interest in learning ASL. 

“There is no universal signed language just as there is no universally spoken language,” Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez has done doctoral research focusing on deaf cultures in Central America. She has learned Guatemalan Sign Language and is interested in learning ASL too, thus coming to the decision to bring in outside help to Ferris. 

Teacher Consultant for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing at MAISD (Montcalm Area ISD) Betsy Smith has been teaching for almost ten years. Her personal attachment to the cause allowed her to experience the oral method of communication, as well as becoming fluent in sign language. 

“As a hard of hearing person, I grew up orally because I was raised by family who used oral method of communication and attended the Hearing Impaired Program that used the oral approach,” Smith said. 

The eight-week class will be at an introductory level and will receive a completion certificate at the end of the course. 

Students will learn to fingerspell words, basic word signs such as nouns and verbs, numbers and understand ASL conversations. Each session will include information and historical facts relating to deaf culture and its existing deaf world. 

“The class will be a lot of fun where we will laugh and learn to communicate with one another. You will make a difference in someone’s life by knowing sign language,” Smith said.