ASL Should Be Part of K-12 School

ASL Should Be Part of K-12 School

Samantha Odom, Staff Writer

We are all fortunate enough to live in a community with an excellent education system. Yet, some of us don’t take full advantage of the opportunity to learn other languages that others do.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is to learn sign language. Not because I need it to speak or to learn, but because I thought it would be fun and something that is worth learning. As I’ve grown older I have become more aware of the fact that sign language isn’t just something that is cool to learn, it is a vibrant part of the deaf community and it should be viewed as a learning priority in schools. 

Although ASL (American Sign Language) is offered in AACPS high schools, studies have shown that prime learning and retaining years are in elementary school. “ASL enriches and enhances children’s cognitive processes, leading to higher abstract and creative thinking, better problem-solving skills, greater cognitive flexibility, better listening skills, and has many other intellectual benefits,” the study said. 

AACPS high schools offer ASL starting freshman year when students are required to take at least one more year of language.  Since students have already taken two years of language in middle school, most people would rather continue with the language previously learned rather than start something new. 

If learning ASL was more required and offered, many deaf people in our community would be able to learn easier and feel more comfortable. It would teach elementary school-age children to be more accepting of the way others communicate.

Of course, I’m not claiming that learning the whole language of ASL should be put in the hands of elementary schoolers, but small things make big differences. Learning how to sign the alphabet, at least a few different phrases, and holidays should be more enforced than it is. 

K-12 teachers should not wait until they have deaf students to adjust teaching. 

It should already be there. 

ASL is important and needs to be recognized. If we start putting it more into schools and expecting more out of students then they will retain it better than ever. Only then can we deeply change many perspectives and change the learning environments for so many kids countywide. 

ASL is a vital skill for learning yet it is treated as optional and such treatment is unfair.