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October 27, 2004

6-year-olds learn sign language

From: Chambersburg Public Opinion - Chambersburg,PA,USA - Oct 27, 2004

Kids easily pick up the new skill

By Akilah Imani Nelson
Staff writer

Even when it's quiet at Corpus Christi school, there could be a lot of talking going on. The school's first-grade classes will be using their hands to communicate after their Tuesday morning lesson in sign language.

Easter Seals sign language instructor Dee Graham captivated the children, signing with her hands as she read "The Lion and the Mouse." She stopped at various points in the story to teach the children the sign for words such as "scared" and "sad."

Throughout the one-hour lesson, Graham signed while she spoke, teaching the children about the history of American Sign Language, which is most commonly used to communicate with hearing-impaired people. Though the 6-year-olds do not have a hearing-impaired classmate, teacher Amanda Blough believes the new skill is still important.

"We wanted to expose them to aspects of language that they may not be familiar with," she said. "The kids are actually practicing it now, and we're going to try to use it in our daily classes."

Blough said the students seemed to pick up the skill easily, learning signs for "please," "thank you," and "bathroom" quickly. The students also learned colors and have started to sign the alphabet.

Akilah Imani Nelson can be reached at or 262-4754.

American Sign Language

American Sign Language is a system of communication through precise hand formations and gestures. It was developed by American deaf people to communicate with each other and has existed as long as there have been deaf Americans.

Standardization began in 1817 when Laurent Clerc and Thomas H. Gallaudet established the first school for the deaf in the United States. Students afterward spread the use of ASL to other parts of the United States and Canada. American Sign Language is not used universally, but the language is extensive, with new words and phrases constantly being added to its dictionary.

People of all ages can learn to sign. Franklin County's Easter Seals chapter offers lessons in American Sign Language each fall and spring. For more information about the upcoming registration, call 264-7578

To learn more about American Sign Language, visit

Source: and National Association of the Deaf

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