Silent campout to teach American Sign Language

MARIETTA – The fun of camping will be combined with learning how to communicate without speaking during Washington State Community College’s first-ever “silent campout” from noon-10 p.m. May 4 at the college’s softball fields in Marietta.

Sponsored by WSCC’s American Sign Language Interpreter Program, the campout is an effort to educate and generate interest in American Sign Language – the primary means of communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“The main goal of the camp is to let people know we do have a sign language program here, but we also want people to know it’s important to be able to communicate with deaf people,” said Ashley Lamraoui, coordinator of the ASL program.

She said the camp is for anyone who knows, studies, or just wants to learn more about American Sign Language, and hopefully some deaf individuals will be part of the event, too.

“We’ll be teaching basic sign language, and for people who already know ASL, we’ll help them enhance their skills,” Lamraoui said. “And there will be games, activities and door prizes available for all ages.”

Lamraoui said the sign language interpreter program was established at the college in 2006 and provides students with a two-year associate degree that prepares them to take the Educational Interpretor Proficiency Assessment.

“That’s very important for interpreters who plan to work in West Virginia schools,” she said. “It’s not mandated for Ohio schools, but the assessment is highly recommended.”

Schools are not the only entities that have need for qualified ASL interpreters. Lamraoui said some students who major in the program become interpreters for churches or other institutions.

“We have people of all kinds who take advantage of our ASL program. It’s a very diversified group, and that’s good,” she said.

American Sign Language is a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

It is the primary language of many who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“It’s sort of like a second language. In fact, many schools offer sign language for credit as a second language,” noted Jim McCauley, president of the local group Parents and Friends of the Hearing Impaired.

“A basic knowledge of sign language can be learned very quickly,” he said. “And it not only allows communication with the deaf or hard of hearing, ASL is also used to communicate with autistic children and people who have certain developmental disabilities.”

McCauley believes that sign language should be part of the required training for police and fire and rescue first responders.

As part of the event, there will be a potluck dinner. Bring a covered dish, lemonade will be provided; no alcohol.