Signs of the Times: West Valley learns the ABCs of ASL

By Avi Vieira

Walking in to this week’s one•n•ten West Valley group, one would have seen almost everyone sitting silently, but gesturing with their hands as the group celebrated Deaf Awareness Week by learning letters, phrases, and basic grammar in American Sign Language with special guest and Central Phoenix one•n•ten regular, the wonderful Richard McLaughlin; and moderated by West Valley’s Captain and Program Coordinator extraordinaire, Mike Schneider who started the evening by listing a few famous people that were deaf or partially deaf, such as Thomas Edison – which surprised many in the group. With the mood set for the evening set, the first activity involved having the group learn their ABCs and their names in sign as they broke into pairs to communicate to each other.

The next activity built on these basics by incorporating simple signs such as “Hi, my name is ____.” “How are you?” “I am feeling ____” and learning phrases for feelings such as happy, angry, sad, tired, and more. The evening closed with a question and answer session, and a short discussion of the importance of facial expressions in communicating tone when signing, and the subtle differences between English and ASL grammar. As a bonus to the evening, a drawing was held for 5 lucky youth to attend the 2013 Western States Basketball Classic in Phoenix, Arizona on February 2013 at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf.

In all, the evening proved to be informative and fun for everyone, as the group gained new language and communication skills, which are always a sign of thoughtful, caring, and open individuals: something everyone at one•n•ten tries to cultivate in the youth on a weekly basis.