A gesture says a thousand words

Carmel students welcome ASL speakers


Juniors Natalie Rutz (second from left) and Olivia Klein (second from right) founded Deaf Culture and Language Club

On Tuesday, DECAL club heard from two professionals in the field of deaf and hard-of-hearing education about how their school uses sign language as its common form of communication

Terri Nilson-Bugella and Daniel Houlihan, the principal and assistant principal of John Powers School in Vernon Hills presented the majority of their talk using only sign language. An interpreter helped translate the conversation, but students for the most part relied on their own sign language skills.

“Personally, I have never actually had the opportunity to sign to a deaf person,” DECAL member and junior Shawn Novak said. “I still feel as though ASL is an important language because this is the only mode of conversation for some people.”

Club founder and junior Natalie Rutz said she brought these particular speakers in with hopes that the students will expand their use of the language by interacting with Houlihan who is completely deaf.

“It is important for people learning sign language to interact with deaf people so that they get access and learn from experience,” Rutz said.

To get ready for Tuesday’s presentation, club members brainstormed questions to ask, ranging from careers in sign language to the experience of working with students with hearing impairments.

“It opens many doors, whether that be in careers or in the community,” Rutz said. “Essentially it allows you to reach an entirely new group of people.”

Many beginning learners were surprised by the experience, demonstrating the importance of hosting such impactful speakers.

“Before joining the club, I held a common misconception that sign language is ‘universal’ but after the first meeting, I learned that this is not true,” Novak said. “Just by learning this, I became even more interested in learning ASL [American Sign Language], for I was just scratching the surface of sign language.”