Deaf Residential Schools in the US...

K.J. Boal kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 12 19:09:49 UTC 2007

Hi James,

Thanks for your response ... please scroll down...

>From: "James Shepard-Kegl, Esq." <kegl at MAINE.RR.COM>
>Reply-To: sw-l at
>To: sw-l at
>Subject: Re: [sw-l] Deaf Residential Schools in the US...
>Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2007 23:11:05 -0500
>It's all about RESPECT.  Children should see from day one that their
>teachers respect sign language as a language, and showing respect for the
>written form is about that.

Which will be a more convincing argument once SW is more generally 
recognized as a valid writing system . . .  sorry, but right now there are 
too many "experts" and, honestly, too many Deaf who either don't know about 
SW or are against it.  I don't think I could argue yet that SW is "the 
written form" of sign language until it has been accepted and used by more 
of the Deaf community.

>You might as well ask whether parents should read to their babies when the
>infants are pre-lingual.  (It's all in the rhythm; comprehension comes

So, (playing devil's advocate here) what's wrong with reading 
English-language stories in sign language to Deaf children?  Why do you need 
SignWriting if the child isn't reading it him/herself?

>I do not advocate stressing literacy skills to a child who does not yet 
>first language skills, but I strongly advocate surrounding that child with
>the written form of the language that is ACCESSIBLE to him as a first

No argument here!!!  One of the first things I thought of was labeling 
objects in the classroom with their SignWritten names (chair, desk, etc.), 
just as you might label things with their English written names, as a first 
step toward SW literacy.  However, (again with the devil's advocate), why 
use SW symbols which are only being used in a very limited way, instead of 
the English words which the students will need to learn anyway?  And 
wouldn't labels in both languages be a little redundant?

Incidentally, my answer to this is that SW is not so much needed for 
labeling skills... but labeling isn't language.  Linguistic research into 
second-language acquisition and second-language learners has shown that IF 
CHILDREN DO NOT LEARN a certain set of skills, such as report-writing, IN 
THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE, they will  not be able to learn them in their second 
if you learn how to write an essay in your first language, once you've 
learned a second language well enough, you will be able to write a similar 
essay in it.

The greatest difficulty for pre-lingually Deaf children is not acquiring 
language; as long as the language is accessible, they will acquire it 
normally.  The greatest difficulty is being educated IN A SECOND LANGUAGE.  
Interestingly, if you look at the statistics for how well English as a 
Second Language (ESL) students do in English-only school programs, and the 
statistics for Deaf students, you see that they are almost identical!  This 
is where I think SignWriting can be the most useful:  in teaching 
higher-level literacy skills such as writing reports, essays and stories, 
and developing reading skills such as contextualization . . . things you 
just can't learn as well (if at all) in a second language.

>And by the way, you don't "teach" first language to children.  You create 
>environment in which they can naturally acquire first language.  (Not true
>for second language, however.)

Good point!  :-)  I do know that . . . I was repeating my friend's objection 
pretty much in her own words, including "teach".  Of course, the other 
matter is that the school my friend teaches at uses (or tries to use) SEE 
rather than ASL, since the point seems to be making the children as 
"hearing" as possible.  I really think that even if she were open to SW, the 
school wouldn't be.  Fortunately, there are other schools . . . including 
the School for the Deaf!

Thanks to everyone for your responses,

Kelly Jo

>-- James
>on 1/7/07 10:18 PM, K.J. Boal at kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM wrote:
> > One concern that has come up here in Alberta - brought up by the one 
> > of the deaf (small "d" intentional) - is that there's no point in 
> > SignWriting to the children she teaches because she has to teach them
> > language first.  I see her point... most of her kids really act more
> > hard-of-hearing than Deaf and come from non-signing families.  Is SW 
> > useful to a kid that doesn't know Sign Language in the first place?
> >
> > KJ
> >
> >
> >> From: "Stuart Thiessen" <sw at>
> >> Reply-To: sw-l at
> >> To: sw-l at
> >> Subject: Re: [sw-l] Deaf Residential Schools in the US...
> >> Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2007 00:20:11 -0600
> >>
> >> Here in Iowa, we have tried to mention SignWriting to both our local
> >> mainstream program and the state school for the Deaf. I say "mention"
> >> because we are still trying to figure out the best plan for introducing 
> >> to the schools. Part of the challenge is that they have pressure to 
> >> English literacy. For many of them, ASL Literacy seems like they are 
> >> in the wrong direction, so they don't want to "waste" their time. So 
> >> of making SW attractive to them (and many others) involves having the
> >> "proof" that ASL literacy will lead to English literacy. Even better 
> >> be "proof" that ASL literacy will either lead to faster English 
>literacy or
> >> better English literacy than the various other programs available that 
> >> not involve ASL literacy. Again, we would have to define what "proof"
> >> means. What we might call "proof" might not be the same as they would 
> >> "proof". So that is all part of the process too.
> >>
> >> So, (in stating the obvious) I think this is one of the high priority
> >> research items that SW advocates need to develop is something that 
> >> how SL literacy impacts spoken language literacy. I think some of that 
> >> happening now just in the ancedotal evidence that has been mentioned on
> >> this list, and certainly Dr. Flood's dissertation is another helpful
> >> resource toward this question. Valerie's Literacy Project is another 
> >> avenue. So some things are happening.
> >>
> >> Now, I think all of us would agree that SL literacy is valuable on its 
> >> and I think eventually people are going to realize that. But in the
> >> meantime, we will need to find ways to "dangle the carrot" and get 
> >> interest. English literacy is certainly one that will grab the 
>attention of
> >> the educational community. Maybe we should brainstorm some other 
> >> that can introduce SW into the schools, and maybe we can come up with 
> >> other creative ideas.
> >>
> >> I do agree that residential schools are a key part of the puzzle, but 
> >> must include the mainstream programs as well because so many deaf 
> >> graduate from mainstream programs. This actually might be a way to 
> >> some pride in having Deaf heritage, language, and culture for these
> >> mainstream students.
> >>
> >> Thanks,
> >>
> >> Stuart
> >>
> >> On Jan 6, 2007, at 23:27, Valerie Sutton wrote:
> >>
> >>> SignWriting List
> >>> January 6, 2006
> >>>
> >>> Now that Cherie and Donna, at the Georgia School for the Deaf, have
> >>> initiated a SignWriting study, it is the first Residential School for 
> >>> Deaf in the US to try least in one classroom...
> >>>
> >>> To explain, SignWriting is used in schools in the USA, such as Hodgin
> >>> Elementary School in New Mexico, but Hodgin is not a Residential 
> >>> for the is a Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing program inside a 
> >>> school...mainstreamed I believe is the term...
> >>>
> >>> And perhaps Georgia School for the Deaf is not all residential either, 
> >>> it is still a School for the Deaf. Generally there are two in each 
> >>> in the have SignWriting used, even experimentally, at 
> >>> School for the Deaf is very important, I think, for getting acceptance
> >>> from the Deaf Community later...If Deaf schools (not just mainstreamed
> >>> programs) accept SignWriting then we are reaching more of the Deaf
> >>> Community...
> >>>
> >>> Do you agree with this, Stuart? If more Deaf Residential Schools 
> >>> SignWriting it might gain more acceptance later? That is why it would 
> >>> so great if we could encourage more residential schools I think...Val 
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> On Jan 6, 2007, at 8:06 PM, Stuart Thiessen wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> It has been my experience (and for understandable reasons) that 
> >>>> advocates of SignWriting are often resisted. For example, one Deaf 
>man I
> >>>> met was very resistant when I mentioned SignWriting. He commented 
>that he
> >>>> had met these hearing people who tried to encourage him to use the
> >>>> system. But then Philip and I talked with him and explained the 
> >>>> Deaf to Deaf. It made a big difference for him to see Deaf people who
> >>>> championed the system. So, with all due respect to hearing people 
>(and to
> >>>> Valerie who invented the system) and to all the other hearing people 
> >>>> this list who are our valuable allies, I think that it pays to have 
> >>>> advocates lead the charge where possible. That way, the system cannot 
> >>>> put down as a hearing-imposed system or some other such excuse. :)
> >>>>
> >>>> Now, I by no means am saying, Kelly, that you shouldn't advocate for 
> >>>> system. I just suggest that you try a different tack. Perhaps use it
> >>>> around Deaf people until you identify Deaf people who are open to the
> >>>> idea and curious enough to explore it more. As they become more
> >>>> convinced, together as a team, work to convince other Deaf of its 
> >>>> By building this kind of network, you will be better able to overcome 
> >>>> resistance that some have toward the system because it will no longer 
> >>>> a hearing-Deaf issue. If you let them push for it but you simply 
> >>>> some of the linguistic support that you have through your education 
> >>>> skills, that will be a valuable way to do it.
> >>>>
> >>>> Thanks,
> >>>>
> >>>> Stuart
> >>>>
> >>>> On Jan 6, 2007, at 19:47, K.J. Boal wrote:
> >>>>
> >>>>> Thanks Shane,
> >>>>> I'm planning on doing that when I can, but I've talked to some of 
> >>>>> leaders of the Deaf community here (e.g., the chair of Deafness 
> >>>>> at the University of Alberta), and they have been very negative 
> >>>>> SignWriting.  Without their support, it's definitely going to be an
> >>>>> uphill battle!
> >>>>> Thanks again,
> >>>>> Kelly Jo
> >>>>>
> >>>>>
> >>>>>> From: "Shane Gilchrist O hEorpa" 
><shane.gilchrist.oheorpa at>
> >>>>>> Reply-To: sw-l at
> >>>>>> To: sw-l at
> >>>>>> Subject: [sw-l] Kelly Jo - Canadian Association?
> >>>>>> Date: Sat, 6 Jan 2007 19:59:34 +0000
> >>>>>>
> >>>>>> Kelly Jo,
> >>>>>>
> >>>>>> another possibiliy here is...
> >>>>>>
> >>>>>> you could go and set up a Canadian Association for Sign Writing - 
> >>>>>> something like that.
> >>>>>>
> >>>>>> Some of us have set up European SignWriters Organisation (some ll 
> >>>>>> SignWriting) in Brussels to support the development of SW in Europe 
> >>>>>> we are being slow but more and more people are picking up on SW. 
> >>>>>> first ESWO symopsium did lead to more schools getting involved - 
> >>>>>> have impressed the Japanese people!
> >>>>>>
> >>>>>> It will take time but you will get there - just get a few deaf
> >>>>>> teachers/lecturers together in Canada, say Western Canada and the 
> >>>>>> will be good.
> >>>>>>
> >>>>>> Shane @ ESWO
> >>>>>>
> >>>>>
> >>>>> _________________________________________________________________
> >>>>> Your Space. Your Friends. Your Stories. Share your world with 
> >>>>> Live Spaces.
> >>>>>
> >>>>>
> >>>>
> >>>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>
> >>
> >
> > _________________________________________________________________
> > Your Space. Your Friends. Your Stories. Share your world with Windows 
> > Spaces.
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