Last semester, I enrolled in the oral communication course at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. During the end of the semester, I was given an assignment to write a persuasive speech. I chose The Benefit of American Sign Language (ASL) Taught in Early Preschool for my topic.
This topic was so appealing and captivating I felt the need to express this issue as awareness to my community. As a resident of Prairie, I have lived near a disabled deaf family member for 50 years, and he is 50 now. I have observed the need for the community to be familiar with sign language for every disable person near and far.
My purpose for choosing this topic was because it was my task to persuade my class that there is a vital need for ASL to be taught in all schools and universities in Mississippi.
After finding research about ASL data discussing the needs and absence of ASL in our community, I decided to share and give my attention to this cause because of the discomfort of not doing anything. I started researching the theory Maslow’s Hierarchy Level of Needs as taught by our professor Dr. Eric Harlan, which was a requirement of understanding human needs. For example, just imagine and contemplate how would you feel if your needs were overlooked?
In Maslow’s Hierarchy: Five Levels of Meeting Human Needs, he states love and belonging are two of the most vital concepts in the art of communication. When children learn sign language, it helps both participants connect.
As a result, research provides information that ASL is beneficial for the deaf community. For example, when the children are exposed to sign language, the whole population becomes more balanced with love and belonging, helping the deal community connect sign-verbal and social functions. This effort demonstrates the importance of American sign language being taught in early preschool. Research states ASL is now classified as a world language, the same as Spanish, French or any other foreign language.
Brenda Schertz, a professional ASL instructor at Cornell University, describes that ASL has helped advance children in learning skills emotionally and socially. She said, “If a child speaks sign language and English, the child is considered bilingual. When children are taught English and ASL together, they process language using both sides of the brain, and this gives the child two places to recall language from instead of just one.”
Schertz found that “the use of sign and finger spelling will accommodate a wide range of learning styles – verbal linguistic, kinesthetic and interpersonal. Using ASL is the representation of information through seeing, hearing and movement, and the more pathways that are created in the brain, the stronger the memory.”
Findings show teaching sign language improves a child’s level of academics and achievement success.
Lastly, I would like to leave each of us with this touching story through an article I researched on social media. A quote from Schertz, a scholar and activist for ASL, stated, “In preschool, I taught my peers ASL because I was the only deaf student in the class. I decided to swim rather than sink.” Schertz expressed this is why she became an ASL professional.
On April 12 of this year, she was hired to raise the issues of ASL. She states, “I agree ASL should be taught in all schools, institutions and universities.” Her story inspired my total outlook on life. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
This story was so powerful and touching that I not only shared this story with my class last semester, presently I am unable to keep what I have learned from this research study in silence.
It still penetrates within my spirit daily. I feel why I am compelled to share it with the community because of empathy I have and experience in this research. I cannot keep this experience a secret. I appreciate all who hear and listen regarding this subject matter.
In my closing appeal, I declare we, as American citizens, should petition on behalf of ASL in heralding our voices together for a worthy cause in promoting the benefit of ASL taught in early preschool. We must continue to raise the banner in every community and embrace the initiative towards accomplishing our goal by communication with our officials to advocate our agenda and lobbying our cause at the state capitol in Jackson.
Nevertheless, let us remember to continue embracing the gift of faith, hope and persistence to endeavor to make a difference in the lives of others. We will be calling the state capitol soon for an appointment to meet with our officials about this issue for those who need our voices and help. Thank you.
Brenda Schertz and Maslow’s articles are available to read at https://linguistics.cornell.edu/content/brenda-schertz-appointed-lead-american-sign-language-program