IM this article to a friend!

April 15, 2004

Learning the silent language of signing

From: Hillsboro Argus, OR - Apr 15, 2004

Christi Ford's second period American Sign Language class at Hillsboro High School formed a tight circle, silently anticipating their teacher's instructions.

Ford, instructing with a series of quick and intricate hand, arm and finger movements, prepared her non-deaf students for a quiet game of "operator."

Ford initiated signs to the student next to her, who kept their hands cupped in front of Ford's signs so others could not "hear" what was being "said." The action was similar to whispering the message in the ear of the next person during a regular session of operator.

The students silently reacted to the passing message with smiles, confusion and comprehension until the last person to receive the message signed it to the class. The still air was then pierced with an audible laughter.

Ford's students make up the last of those who chose American Sign Language, or ASL, as their foreign language requirement last school year, the first year Hilhi offered the language.

Level one ASL was dropped due to budget cuts last year, explained Ford. This year is the last that level two ASL is being offered for students who need the class to complete their foreign language requirement.

"Next year is still up in the air," Ford said, hoping ASL may be offered if enough students show interest in it. "I don't know what's gonna happen."

Yet tolerance and interest in relationships between hearing-impaired and regular students is strong, Ford added.

"Last year lots of kids were interested in American Sign Language," said Lisa Harris, a junior in Ford's class. Harris noted that she, like many Hilhi students, enjoys friendships with the school's deaf and hard of hearing population.

"It's something they can use because there's deaf students in the school. There's so many people interested in the language. Friends go out of their comfort zone and are expanding their group of friends."

Ford agreed.

"They like to communicate with deaf friends. Some are even in sports together."

Jill Bailey, coordinator of a regional Deaf and Hard of Hearing, or D/HH, program, said relationships between deaf and non-deaf students begins in grade school at Groner Elementary. There, new students to the D/HH program begin deaf-assisted education.

"Our deaf and hard of hearing kids are making hearing friends at Groner and we want them to be able to continue those relationships."

©2004 All Rights Reserved