A preschool teacher for deaf and hard of hearing students is finding that American Sign Language helps deaf and hearing people communicate, and it’s important for families to sign with their children.
At one time, teacher Chris Arenth had to tell a child that their grandparent had died. The parents did not know sign language and could not communicate with their own child.
“All teachers take on a parent role to some extent, but this is definitely a part that most … regular teachers don’t have to do,” she said.
Arenth is Orange County’s Teacher of the Year. She wants to use the recognition to advocate for her students at Maitland’s Lake Sybelia Elementary School. Her prime wish is to have all parents learn sign language so they can speak with their children.
Some parents do not learn because they hope their children will start hearing. Others think that young children have plenty of time. But according to Arenth, if the children do not learn the basic language skills by age 3, they fall behind.
“The majority of my students arrive at school with little to no language, so they have to start at the beginning with learning who they are,” Arenth said. “They usually spend about a year just taking in all the signs they’re seeing because we’re signing in context.”