American Sign Language is an incredibly useful tool in the field of special education. It allows those who have hearing loss or are non-verbal to communicate easily and effectively with others. Rather than feeling limited or frustrated by inability to communicate, sign language enables a child or student with a disability to express themselves and communicate vital information to their parents, teachers, and peers. It can also help to decrease aggression and tantrums both at school and at home.
…sign language enables a child or student with a disability to express themselves and communicate vital information to their parents, teachers, and peers.
Signing is not limited to any specific disability or group of people, but those who most commonly utilize sign language are a part of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, have Down syndrome, or are on the autism spectrum. Thus, family members, teachers, and peers would all benefit from learning and utilizing sign language.
Sign Language in the Classroom
Special education classrooms often make use of sign language. Obviously, it is often used in classrooms with students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but students who are non-verbal or who have other disabilities also use sign language. This may include students with speech impediments, who speak another language, or who have Down syndrome or Autism. Sign language allows this wide array of students to vocalize their thoughts and needs.
Obviously, [sign language] is often used in classrooms with students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but students who are non-verbal or who have other disabilities also use sign language.
Interestingly, generalized education classrooms are also starting to adopt sign language in the classroom in some cases. For example, teachers find that using sign language in the classroom keeps students well-behaved, focused, and enables efficient communication. Teachers are often attending to multiple tasks at one time, and rather than having their students shout out requests to go to the bathroom, they ask that the students sign. This keeps the classroom environment more organized and allows the teachers to focus on helping students who need additional resources without getting distracted. The Washington Post, along with other publications, has written about this phenomenon, but only time will tell if sign language becomes a common feature in the classroom!
How Can You Learn to Sign?
If you’re a professional in the field of special education, it is important that you learn how to sign. As mentioned above, the practical applications of sign language are broad, and being able to sign increases your potential impact on students or clients. Happily, the internet is a wonderful tool to help you start learning sign language, and there are a multitude of resources online that can get you started. We also want to encourage people to learn ASL, so we created a beginner’s guide to ASL which will help you learn basic signs that could be used in the home or in the classroom. Take a look and start learning! We believe this guide will be especially useful to family members and peers who are hoping to use sign language at home or in the classroom.
However, if you’re an educator… you may want to explore degrees or certifications that are more thorough to best prepare you for the classroom.
However, if you’re an educator hoping to work closely with students affected by hearing loss, you may want to explore degrees or certifications that are more thorough to best prepare you for the classroom. For example, we love Saint Joseph’s University’s Master of Science in Special Education- Hearing Impaired degree. We believe that by pursuing this degree you will become the most impactful educator possible.
Finally… Test Your Knowledge!
How well do you know your signs? Take a quiz and test your knowledge on common ASL signs.