When I was a baby, I lost the ability to speak. I don’t know the exact age this happened, because I was so young. My speech was developing completely fine until, one day, it just stopped. No one knew why at first, but the doctors suspected it was because I had a negative reaction to a vaccination that had been recently administered to me. No one knew when I would start speaking again, or if I ever would. The prospects of it returning got bleaker by the day. With no signs of regaining my speech anytime soon, my mom and dad decided to have a specialist teach me American Sign Language ( ASL, for short,) so that I could at least communicate with the rest of the world, if it happened to be the case that I was to never speak again.
My mom has recounted this time of my life to me, since I was too young to remember it. She says a specialist came to our home once in a week to teach me sign language and I picked it up fairly quickly. I would flap around while my sisters would “cheep cheep” while we pretended to be birds. And I would sign to indicate I wanted more food and that I was tired, simple things like that. Or I would just scream my head off, whichever was more effective.
Even though I was doing well, there was one problem, my parents had no idea what I was signing. By way of an accident I suppose, the specialist neglected to teach my parents how to sign. This was a big problem because, even though I had a way to express myself, no one could understand me. This was remedied quite quickly, as my mom and dad started learning as well. But they never got around to learning very much because, by way of some awesome miracle, I began to speak again. Just as quickly and abruptly as it went, it came back, and my speech has developed normally ever since then.
This is such an odd story to tell for me, because I don’t remember this part of my life. I don’t remember any sign language, apart from the gestures my mom uses as she recounts the stories. Even though I feel beyond blessed and fortunate to be able to speak, I would love to have kept that wonderful knowledge of sign language.
This is one of the reasons why I propose that Eastern University offers a course on American Sign Language. My friends, Danielle Schenck and Rachel Beltran are also in support of this idea for different reasons. Schenck says, “ I believe that the ASL community is one that is not spoken about often.” She also states, “There is a huge community of people that live with this disability and are not usually accommodated for.” Schenck also thinks it would be a, “cool thing to know.” What if someone in class is deaf? How will anyone be able to communicate with him or her? This is a problem not many people think about, since deafness or the inability to speak is not normally brought to our attentions.
My other friend, Rachel Beltran is also in favor of having an American Sign Language course here at Eastern. “ Since I am a Special Education major,” Beltran states, “ I feel it is important to be able to be prepared for kids with a range of disabilities. It would be helpful if this course is available, so I could expand my knowledge and be best equipped to work in a classroom in the future.” She also thinks it’s pretty cool. I think a lot of people would benefit from this course and be interested in it, I know I would be.