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August 15, 2007

Company Seeks to Fill Gap in Teaching Academic ASL to Deaf People

From: A3 - Aug 15, 2007

Don Miller


Company Seeks to Fill Gap in Teaching Academic ASL to Deaf People

Austin, TX [August 15, 2007] - In time for the new school year, educational consulting company Academic ASL Approach, LLC (A3) is gearing up to assist K-12 and post-secondary schools in establishing effective academic ASL-driven bilingual Deaf education programs through workshops, assessments and programming development.

"Historically, Deaf students have been required to master English before they achieve a metalinguistic understanding of their natural, first language - which is American Sign Language (ASL)," said Erika Domatti-Thomas, A3 co-owner. "As a result, Deaf students miss an essential component in language learning when faced with the challenging task of learning a second, auditory-based language."

She added, "Having ASL as a first language is crucial to the acquisition of English as a second language. Yet Deaf ASL users do not receive this training. Rather, they are expected to learn academic English without academic ASL training."

Don Miller, A3 co-owner, agrees. "We Deaf signers need to take ownership of ASL by having an in-depth, full understanding of its grammar. After all, Deaf people have the right to be literate in ASL."

A3 is one of the ways Domatti-Thomas and Miller hope to work with schools to add academic ASL to their current language program through curriculum and trainings at schools. Both Domatti-Thomas and Miller are college instructors who have been instrumental in developing curriculum for and teaching academic ASL to Deaf students for several years. Both also bring K-12 teaching and curriculum development experience to A3.

A3's workshops, based on three years of empirical data and many years of experience, include a brief review of language theory, formalized academic ASL training for the classroom, academic ASL grammar and curriculum development, and academic ASL within the English classroom. A3 also offers other types of services, including assessments and consulting, ideal for K-12 teachers and administrators, along with Deaf education instructors and/or students. "Through trial and error, and curriculum planning and teaching, we've developed skill frameworks, assessments, teaching techniques, and technology tools that really work," Domatti-Thomas said.

"A3 was formed after we both realized that there was very little training available to school administrators, teachers, and even interpreters on establishing and implementing formal academic ASL in schools," Miller said. "A3 fills this gap through various services and trainings that have been carefully crafted and researched. As a result, we've had a tremendous response, and are looking forward to working with even more schools and universities across the nation."

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Erika Domatti-Thomas, an assistant professor of Deaf ESOL at Austin Community College, teaches reading and writing. Erika earned her bachelor's degree in Deaf education from the University of Texas and her master's degree from Gallaudet University. She began her career as a high school English teacher and then later as an English curriculum specialist at the California School for the Deaf, Fremont, before working with Austin Community College to develop a program that now serves close to 200 Deaf students. She also co-owns the educational consulting company Academic ASL Approach, LLC.

Don Miller, an adjunct professor of Deaf ESOL at Austin Community College, teaches reading, writing, L1 ASL Grammar and L1 ASL Literature. Don earned his bachelor's degree in American Sign Language from Gallaudet University and his master's degree from McDaniel College. After a few years of teaching elementary school, Don joined the Austin Community College team where he developed the college's current L1 ASL Grammar curriculum. In addition, Don co-owns Academic ASL Approach, LLC.

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