The development of American Sign Language (ASL), the communication within the Deaf community, was inspired by a preacher’s desire to share the Gospel message of Jesus with a Deaf child, Rotarians heard at their Jan. 29 meeting here in Winnfield.
Diane Holeman explained that Rev. Thomas Gallaudet heard that work was underway in Europe on a communication system to help the Deaf speak to the hearing world and he traveled to France in 1814 where he cooperated with Laurent Clerc to open his own understanding. That basis in-hand, he returned to the States and combined it with sign language used by Native Americans to communicate with traders to create ASL.
Gallaudet would go on to establish the American School for the Deaf.
Hearing people are often reluctant to interact with the Deaf because of their own inhibitions…”how do I communicate?” Mrs. Holeman suggested ways of opening that line of communication in the workplace as well as in social settings. It all begins with learning the manual alphabet (finger-spelling). Learning the how-to of that alphabet and other communication signs is readily available in books at the library and online.
Mrs. Holeman herself was first inspired to study the field in school when, as a child, she observed her cousin Nancy who is Deaf, silently communicating so easily with her family. While she received her degree in Speech Therapy at LSU, marriage and family sidetracked her Masters-level study in ASL.
But she said the Lord opened that door when she served as children’s minister at First Baptist Church and a music program incorporating ASL was launched. She now serves as one of several ASL interpreters at East Winnfield Baptist Church where there is a Deaf ministry.