What is ASL?
ASL stands for American Sign Language. At CSN we also sometimes refer to it as “sign language” or “sign”. ASL is the primary mode of communication for many people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
American Sign Language has been around since the early 1800s. It has both a signed alphabet and a significant signed vocabulary. It also has a grammar system that is completely different from that of spoken English.
How do we use it at CSN?
While no one at CSN is fluent in ASL, Coaches are expected to use basic sign language with Clients whenever possible – either in addition to verbal language or as a focus or component of a group activity. We have a few clients who respond exclusively to signed prompts. CSN – Collaborations also makes use of ASL as a therapeutic tool to help clients express themselves.
Every Monday at our weekly staff meeting a new sign is announced and taught to staff. The sign generally relates to things like the weather, upcoming events, or consistent aspects of clients’ lives (basic needs, relationships, etc.). The sign is posted around the CSN buildings and on our blog.
By incorporating sign language we aim to:
Enhance and demystify communication
For some (not all!) clients, ASL offers a more accessible way of translating thoughts into symbols. It is easy to forget how complicated our verbal language is if it comes easily to us. It is important to remember that verbalizing is not always easy for everyone.
Foster Independence and Self-Advocacy
By offering clients an alternative means of communicating what they need, we give them one more opportunity to assert these needs for themselves. Self-advocacy is an important form of independence. We should encourage clients to seek out the help they need to have their needs met.
Encourage Constructive Physicality
Many clients tend towards physical outlets during times of high emotion. ASL offers a physical outlet that does not harm others. While all behavior is a type of communication, ASL is a more easily recognized way of communicating whatever the client might be feeling.
Cultivate Learning, Pride, and Mastery
ASL can be an exciting opportunity for learning and success for clients who have often not been encouraged as learners. It can be a great source of pride to learn a new sign or to successfully communicate with another.
It is important to remember that we are all a product of different biologies, cultures, and experiences. Differences in communication style are abundant from person to person. Making ASL a part of CSN is one way we have of embracing the differences that make us all unique.
Promote Universal Design
Universal design is the concept of making an environment more smoothly accessible to people with varying abilities. One of the most essential aspects of this idea is communicating in multiple ways. Universal design is an essential part of CSN’s mission, and incorporating ASL into our communication is one way of fulfilling this mission.