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November 20, 2004

Woman's mission is to help deaf and hearing communicate with each other

From: - MI,USA - Nov 20, 2004

The Associated Press

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) — The beauty of sign language so intrigues Sue D. Price that she is on a lifelong mission to help deaf and hearing-impaired people — and encourage others to use the language to better express themselves.

Price, 41, teaches people of all ages and professions at the School Days educational store in Midland. Some students will use sign language in education, health care or audiology professions, while others are taking the class to explore a new and quiet world where body movements and facial expression speak thousands of words.

"When people come in I tell them you can't be shy if you want to sign," she said. "I think it really expands people to have to open up and force themselves to express themselves to sign correctly.

As a girl, friends of her brother and sister introduced Price to the culture of deaf people. From that exposure, she decided to dedicate her life to teaching hearing-impaired children. She received a master's degree in audiology from Central Michigan University and worked for the Grand Rapids schools testing hearing of babies and children. She also prepared elementary pupils for the arrival of a deaf classmate — explaining to them what sign language is, what a hearing aid is and what deafness means to someone.

Although working in the classroom was a small part of her job, it made her realize how much she enjoyed working with children. Soon after, Price entered into the hearing-impaired education program at Michigan State University was a student teacher in the Lansing school district. Here, she mastered sign language.

Teaching deaf people to break out and communicate with the world gives her work life.

"We encourage our kids to learn Spanish, German or French, but there are a lot of people in America who are deaf and are itching for (people) to learn sign language, so they can communicate with more people and be a bigger part of the community."

One of her greatest success stories involves a hearing-impaired, 12-year-old girl who had taken part in a speech program that didn't include signing. Although the girl had developed a method of communication with her mother, she was unable to communicate with anyone else.

On the first day of class, she couldn't even ask Price for permission to go to the bathroom.

Although she was at an advanced age for beginning language skills, Price said she quickly absorbed the body movements and hand signals of signing. "She ate it like candy. She was craving this thing she was able to use."

After working in Lansing for 13 years, Price and her family returned to Midland to live closer to her extended family. With a child in kindergarten, she didn't continue her work until last fall when her sister, Terry A. Dewar, approached her about helping with Midland High School's production of "Sweet Nothings in My Ear" — a play entirely in sign language.

Price translated the 45-minute script into ideas and thoughts. Because vocal communication would hinder the effectiveness of the student's performance, they had to immerse themselves in the culture and language of deaf people. With Price's guidance, the production came in second in the Class A division at the Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association's 2004 competition. Some students continued to take lessons with Price after the production, and still use sign language to talk to each other in class.

After the students spread the word about Price, she began teaching again by hosting classes of 15 people in her living room. Price hopes her work will leave a legacy of public awareness of the deaf community and of how signing touches lives.

"I would love to expand (sign language) and have people come to share this beautiful language," she said. "I hope that Midland becomes a community where it is not a rare thing, but something people see a lot."


Information from: The Saginaw News,

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