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November 15, 2003

FSC offers American Sign Language

From: The Gatepost - Nov 15, 2003

By Linda J. Azanow Staff Writer

Framingham State College is offering a new course this semester in American Sign Language (ASL).

Dr. Jeanne Canelli, associate professor in the education department and director of the child development lab, is taking the ASL class to brush up on her sign language skills. Canelli first became interested in sign language when she had a special needs student in the child development lab who spoke sign language as her first language.

As an educator, Canelli believed she could better reach this child by communicating through sign language. She then taught it to the other children, who used it to communicate with this child as well.

Rachel Largey, an interpreter for the deaf and instructor of the ASL course, said ASL has many applications. It could be used as a tool for the deaf and special needs students, but can also be used to communicate with people who have lost their voices through injuries, cancer or other reasons.

Largey believes ASL would be beneficial to a student in the education program here at FSC. Largey said, "I feel that with all of the state budget cuts and town budget cuts, that if we had more educators who learned sign language ... they would be able to have a deaf student mainstreamed in a regular classroom. This would enable the deaf children to learn at an early age how to deal and cope with the hearing world."

Canelli said, "I think it could expand their [teaching candidates'] horizons. As a school principal, you're trying to figure out ways in which you can delineate students from each other, and if someone has down [on their resume] that they are fluent in sign language, ... that gives you another something to set you apart from the other candidates."

ASL is offered as a non-credit course at FSC. When asked if it is possible that ASL could fulfill the language component of the general education requirements in the future, Canelli said, "Personally, I think it could, but it would have to go through all sorts of committees to get approval."

Canelli added, "It's [ASL] recognized as a worldwide language and I know there's a whole thing going on about revamping gen. eds. [general education requirements], so this might be a good time to propose that."

Some students would have preferred to take ASL over a more traditional foreign language course to fill their general education requirement. Keri Callahan, a junior in the education program, said, "I think sign language is more widely used as opposed to a specific language because most schools have special needs students."

Janet Fannon, a sophomore in the education program, said, "I think it is more important to learn sign language. I have more opportunities right now to communicate through sign language rather than French or Spanish."

Although ASL is a non-credit course at this time, Joan Ligon, program coordinator of graduate and continuing education, said, "You can earn a certificate of completion."

According to the FSC Web site, American Sign Language is one of the most widely used languages in the United States.

© 2003 The Gatepost, Framingham State College • Framingham, MA