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American Sign Language for the Dyslexia Student

Aug 07, 2020

American Sign Language for the Dyslexia Student

By Rachel Denning, Horizon Academy Orton-Gillingham Coach and Instructor

Did you know that American Sign Language (ASL) is not just a gestured version of English? It is actually a complete language of its own, with unique rules of pronunciation, word order, and grammatical markers. For this reason, many schools, including Horizon Academy, offer ASL as an option for earning foreign language credits. By studying ASL, students not only learn to communicate using a new language, they also learn about a different culture. Students begin to appreciate the unique characteristics of the Deaf community!

Particularly exciting for those of us at Horizon Academy is that ASL can be a great language choice for students with dyslexia. While spoken languages are oral and require discrimination of speech sounds, signed languages are visual and use handshapes, gestures, and facial expressions. Since many dyslexic students struggle with phonemic awareness (the ability to distinguish individual sounds within words) learning new words with new sounds can be a daunting task. ASL, on the other hand, is a hands-on, visual language. Dyslexic students often pick it up more quickly and successfully than they would spoken languages.

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity published a great article entitled, “One Dyslexic’s Experience with Learning American Sign Language”, in which a student named CJ shares his success with learning ASL. Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Professor in Learning Development at Yale University and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, explains that about 99% of dyslexics have difficulty learning the sound systems of a second language. As a result, a visual language such as ASL is a great option for students with dyslexia who desire to study a second language. Horizon is so excited to be able to provide this learning opportunity for our students!
To see the Yale Center article, click here: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/dyslexic-kids-adults/stories-from-dyslexics/one-dyslexics-experience-with-learning-american-sign-language/