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Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

Sign of the Day - COOK
(as in verb, to cook)

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A perspective on deaf education: Dr. Joseph Valente's "Hearing the Unheard"

General Interest   |  Monday, May 7, 2012

By Jillian Winn

Our recent blog article on Education Options for Children that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing covered the various educational options available. We did not specify any one option as being "the best" option because every child, family, and situation is different and education is a very personal decision. However, one of our suggestions was to connect with deaf adults who can provide advice based on their own education experience.

We found a TEDx video by Dr. Joseph Valente that talks about his education experience. With the slogan "Ideas worth spreading," TED is an event where speakers share their thoughts on a variety of topics.  Dr. Valente's talk was at a TEDx event locally run by Penn State University.
Dr. Valente is deaf and touches on his experience being mainstreamed.  He discusses how deaf and hard of hearing students aren't disabled and shouldn't be in special education; they are bilingual and need a bilingual education. He feels deaf schools are great for students because they use both spoken language and signed language.  He also talks about not meeting other deaf or hard of hearing students as a child and feeling alone.  He believes deaf schools are great in socializing students and exposing them to Deaf culture. 
Watch Dr. Joseph Valente's TEDxPSU video "Hearing the Unheard" to hear his story and perspective on deaf education:

NOTE ON CAPTIONS: We wish this video was available with a view of the interpreter, but at least full captions are available.  If you aren't seeing the captions, scroll onto the video, click the "CC" and then select to turn the captions on. 



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Education Options for Children that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

General Interest   |  Tuesday, April 24, 2012

By John Miller

We have received questions from parents, family and friends of newly identified children with hearing loss asking about what we know about educational options. Let me begin by saying that making educational decisions for you child is a very personal decision and takes a lot of thought and discussion with professionals that have specific knowledge of the services available in your area. There are many different education options to explore. You need to determine what is the best fit for your family.

Educational Options

Early Intervention / Preschool Programs

Early intervention / preschool programs are typically for children from birth to four years old. They aim to develop early language and communication skills, as well as provide support and resources for parents. These programs may be provided by a variety of local organizations, such as public schools, government (health and human services departments), residential schools, and private organizations.

When researching what types of programs are offered in your local area, find out who the programs are intended for and who teaches them. Some programs may be for a more inclusive group of children with a variety of special needs or they may be specifically for children that are deaf or hard of hearing. Teachers may have a degree in special education or have training specifically in deaf education. These distinctions may not reflect on the quality of the program, but are important to understand when evaluating your options.

Residential Schools

A residential school is an institution where students typically go and live full time while attending. These can be private or state schools. All the students in the school are deaf or hard of hearing. They are often educated by deaf teachers or teachers who are trained in deafness. Some residential schools offer day-only options for students that are able to commute from home.


  • Students will be around other deaf and hard of hearing students.
  • Education is tailored to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Schools often incorporate sign language.
  • Most schools offer a variety of extracurricular activities, including sports and clubs, where the students interact with other deaf residential schools.  These activities can help foster a larger Deaf community for the student.
  • Students build relationships and are involved in Deaf culture and community.
  • Often there is access to strong deaf role models.


  • Students are usually away from home and their families for long periods of time.
  • Children can feel isolated from their families.
  • There may be expenses involved in this type of schooling.

You can find a list of Schools and Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the United States on the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center Website.

Oral Day Schools or Sign Day Schools

Oral Day Schools or Sign Day Schools are schools that provide education for deaf or hard of hearing students, but they are day schools and the students return home each day. Oral Day Schools focus more on auditory and oral skills and do not incorporate sign language. Sign Day Schools do use sign language.


  • Students will be around other deaf and hard of hearing students.
  • Education is tailored to the needs of deaf and hard of hearing.
  • There may be additional pros, similar to those of residential schools.


  • The availability and location of these types of schools may eliminate them as an option for families who don’t live near one. They are often located in higher populated areas, like metropolitan cities.
  • There may be expenses involved in this type of schooling.

You can find a list of Oral Deaf Schools in the U.S. on the Oberkotter Foundation Oral Deaf Education Web Site

You can find a list of Schools and Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the United States on the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center Website.

Mainstreaming (Public School)

"Mainstreaming" has a long history of being a controversial topic in deaf and hard of hearing education. Mainstreaming is when a deaf or hard of hearing student attends a local public school with hearing students. The experience can vary greatly depending on the support services the school has to provide and the needs of the student.

The best way to find out what the services are in your local area is to contact the local public school district or regional service district and see what they have to offer. Because deafness is considered a “low incidence disability” by government education code (meaning there isn’t a large number of deaf children in a concentrated area), there is limited funding available and every school district handles it differently.

Having a general understanding of how the educational system is structured can help you understand how to navigate it. Typically a group of individual schools will make up a school district, and in parts of the U.S. there are also intermediate school districts that manage multiple school districts. Because there isn’t always enough funding for individual schools to have their own deaf or hard of hearing program, many times the programs will be controlled at the district or intermediate school district level and students are bused to one central location for education.

Here are some examples of how mainstreaming can vary:

  • Regular Classroom
    The student is in a regular classroom with hearing students and all instruction is from the classroom teacher(s). There are little to no additional support services provided for the deaf or hard of hearing student.
  • Regular Classroom with additional support services
    The student is in a regular classroom with hearing students, however, there is some support in addition to the classroom teacher(s). The support may come from an additional teacher, teacher consultant, teacher of the deaf, speech/language specialist, or interpreter. The support may be provided within the classroom, where the helper would co-teach or work with the deaf or hard of hearing student in conjunction with the main teacher addressing the entire class, or the student may meet with the specialist after class, outside of the classroom.
  • Resource Room
    The student is in a regular classroom with hearing students, however, they leave the classroom for designated periods to receive special instruction. Some students may be with other deaf or hard of hearing individuals during this period, or they may be with other students with special education needs, such as physical or cognitive disabilities – that is an important distinction to be aware of.
  • Self-Contained Classroom
    The student is in a class, separate from the regular classroom, with a teacher for the deaf.


The pros and cons of mainstreaming and the quality of that education vary greatly depending on the environment and type of support provided for the student. Mainstreamed students can feel isolated if they are the only deaf or hard of hearing student and may lack access to deaf role models. One advantage is that mainstreaming allows students to stay at home with their family, opposed to living away for schooling.  With resources being shared across school districts, students are often bused to one central location where they are with a group of deaf and hard of hearing students as well as hearing students, yet they may also have a self contained classroom that they can go to throughout the day for additional support. This allows the deaf and hard of hearing students to participate in any of the school's extracurricular activities, such as sports or clubs.

Homeschool Environment

Homeschooling is when students are educated by parents or tutors outside of the formal setting of a public or private school (like at home).


  • Parents have the opportunity to tailor the education experience specifically for their child.
  • The student doesn’t need to live away from home for schooling.


  • The student may feel isolated from peers.
  • When there is only a single education provider for an extended length of time, there may be less variety in teaching methods and perspectives that a student would receive in a typical school setting where they have a new teacher every year.
  • There may be significant costs associated when a tutor(s) are hired or a parent leaves their job to do homeschool instruction full time.

Making Education Decisions

Again, making education decisions for your child is a very personal decision. Some things to think about:

  • The best thing you can do is research your options and be an advocate for your child’s needs. Every child is different – with different learning styles, different personalities, different strengths, and different levels of hearing loss.
  • Education quality varies from school to school. No matter the type of education you choose to pursue, make sure that you learn what you can about the specific school and talk to other parents with children there if possible.
  • There is not one education option that is best for everyone. Every student and family is different and has different needs.
  • Hearing parents might want to connect with deaf adults who can provide advice on their own education experience.
  • Try to build positive relationships with school administrators and teachers. They may be able to help increase the options and opportunities available with the education system.

Please feel free to share your own experience by leaving a comment.


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Top 10 Pearls of Wisdom for Interpreters

Top 10 Pearls of Wisdom for Interpreters

Interpreter Tips   |  Thursday, March 29, 2012

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

Interpreting can be both rewarding and challenging. Here is my list of top ten pearls of wisdom for interpreters:

  1. Yuo msut haev gud Englesh and spellnig skells. (Enuff sed)
  2. Not everything can be learned in an Interpreter Training Program.
    There is so much that comes from the experiences you will receive out in the field. Reflect and respect what you learned in your Interpreter Training Program (ITP) but remember that (as in life) the lessons you will continue to learn will be very valuable in your career as an interpreter.
  3. If you’re 5 minutes early, you’re late.
    Running in at the last minute bonking your clients in the head with your purse as you pass by frantically, then having to excuse yourself to use the bathroom is not professional or reassuring that you are prepared. Nothing is worse than a late interpreter! Be aware of the situation and setting for which you are interpreting, and then show up early according to those details. It will pay off in spades in the end.
  4. Remember you pave the way for the next interpreter.
    We are all a team here. Let’s not ruin it or muddy the waters by talking ill of others who have proceeded or may follow.
  5. Doubt means don’t.
    Follow your gut, it’s not just processing the coffee you drank this morning.
  6. Remember why you started, because there are always 1000 reasons to quit.
    This career can be the most rewarding, yet the most frustrating thing you have ever done... and sometimes all in the same interpreting job!
  7. Don’t be a "smell money interpreter".
    This is to remind people hopefully why they got in this profession. You chose this profession for the money? Really? To be fluent in any language you have to practice, and in this field you can only do that by hanging out with native users. But you can't just say, "be my friend so I can learn this language" and then just dump them. Once you're in the community you're in for life.
  8. Nobody likes a know it all.
    This relates back to # 2, about taking in the new experiences, as well as LISTENING and REFLECTING before you speak. If you truly feel you have something pertinent to share, you can do so, but do it in a way that looks like you are trying to be helpful, not like you have every answer and you have been dropped down directly from God to save this situation.
  9. Know how to flatter. When to flatter.
    Remember, no one likes a brown noser. Flattery might seem nice but it soon turns into kissing up. Avoid it, especially if it is fake because it is quickly recognized.
  10. Black goes with everything. (And is very thinning!)
    For those of you that don’t know, interpreters are supposed to wear solid colors. The general rule for interpreting is that you are supposed to wear solid colors that contrast with one's skin tone. I still own a lot of black clothes but as long as it contrasts with my skin tone I can also pick from fun colors called: cinnamon, pumpkin, blueberry, concord grape, plum, amethyst, moss, shale. Happy shopping!

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

Celebrated Deaf Artist Chuck Baird Dies

General Interest   |  Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By John Miller

Chuck BairdChuck Baird, an amazing Deaf artist died February 10, 2012 after a four-year battle with cancer.

Chuck Baird was often referred to as a playful mind and a generous heart. I was able to meet Chuck as he visited with a group of young Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. I have to admit his playful mind and generous heart is what stuck out to me the most while I watched him totally pull the children into his wonderful world of art.

Chuck was born deaf 64 years ago in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Kansas School for the Deaf in 1967 and attended Gallaudet University for two years. Later he attended Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), where he played football for their team for only four games. He decided to give up the sport for his love of art instead.

Robert Baker of NTID’s Dyer Arts Center described Baird best as “a giant of an artist and a wonderful man.” Chuck’s time at NTID also included time spent in the Drama Club. He acted in several productions and designed and painted several sets. One of his most memorable plays was “King of Hearts” where each night Chuck would recreate the entire set in front of a live audience!

Later in life Chuck worked for DawnSignPress as an in-house artist creating a number of Deaf-related works.

Chuck’s works were known for the genre called De’VIA, which stood for Deaf View Image Arts. This genre explored the perspective of Deaf people and their experiences in a hearing world. Deaf and Hard of Hearing children of all ages loved to see their language, American Sign Language, being used in art to express their point of view.

Chuck Baird's painting Crocodile Dundee
"Crocodile Dundee" Copyright Chuck Baird, 1992. In this Chuck Baird painting, notice the reflection of the crocodile is the sign for crocodile. To see more of Chuck Baird's paintings, visit Chuck Baird's website.

“Chuck spent his life sharing his talent and love for the Deaf-world via his art. He constantly sought to create spaces where new De’Via artists could be fostered, shared, valued and discussed.”

Rest in Peace Chuck Baird, your talents will live on through the many, many people you inspired with your great perspective and zest for life.

Learn more about Chuck Baird:

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The Hammer movie delivers inspirational true story

General Interest   |  Monday, February 20, 2012

By Jillian Winn

The Hammer, a movie based on the life of the first deaf NCAA Wrestling Champion and UFC Fighter Matt "The Hammer" Hamill, was released on DVD a few weeks ago. The DVD cover says, "the inspirational true story," and it was just that… whether or not you are interested in wrestling, sign language, or deaf culture, the movie is an inspirational story about overcoming challenges and working hard to make your dreams a reality. And if you are interested in sign language (of course you are, if you are on Signing Savvy!), you should check out this movie.

Watch the trailer:

Different, not Disabled.

The film takes us on Matt's journey from childhood to an adult, starting with a scene where his grandfather is in the room with an audiologist while Matt, as a toddler, is having his hearing tested. The grandfather says to the audiologist, "After a couple of flashing lights and a teddy bear, you're going to tell me my grandson is deaf and dumb?" The audiologist responds, "No… I'm going to tell you, you have a highly intelligent grandson who is profoundly deaf."

Young Matt Hamill in The Hammer movieThis heart-wrenching opening scene represents an all too common misconception of those who are deaf or hard of hearing (HOH). There is nothing "dumb" about deaf or HOH individuals and please be careful with using the terminology "handicapped" as well. Deaf or HOH individuals are just as capable, able, and intelligent as hearing individuals. The Hammer movie does a great job of showing this distinction of different, not disabled.

When you know better, you do better.

Matt's grandfather was a strong influence in his life and although throughout the film he delivers "tough love" to try to make him stronger, it's not because he views Matt as weak, it's because he sees how strong he is. A scene close to the end of the movie shows a softer side of his grandfather and the love he has for Matt (but we won't spoil it for you!). The film can help introduce those unfamiliar with deaf and HOH individuals with deaf culture.

A glimpse into deaf culture.

There are a lot of takeaways in the film for those not familiar with deaf culture. The film's production team made some great decisions which added to the authenticity and overall storytelling within the film:

Matt Hamill in The Hammer movie

  • They casted all deaf roles in the film with deaf actors.
  • There is a sparse soundtrack and the audio is softened and muffled in certain parts to try to give hearing viewers a small glimpse into what it would be like to be deaf.
  • Sign language is used in the film with captioning so non-signers can understand (it is the first non-foreign language film to incorporate open captioning). For those that don't understand sign language, it adds to the storytelling aspect of the film. For those who are deaf, HOH, or learning sign language, you can turn off the captioning.
  • The director also noted that, "I used many wide angles to help mirror an enhanced peripheral view, which is common among deaf people who communicate 100% through visuals."

The verdict: Two open-palm, shaking hands (sign for clapping/cheering)

The Hammer is an inspirational story of determination and a sensory view into deaf culture for the hearing. If you are learning sign language, you should check out this movie.

But don't just take our word for it... The Hammer was a winner at several film festivals, including the Newport Beach Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Miami Film Festival, Cleveland Film Festival, Philly Cinefest Film Festival, Maui Film Festival, and Heartland Film Festival.

Finding the Film

Please note this film is rated PG-13 and not for young children.

The Hammer can be found at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Blockbuster, iTunes, Netflix, and many cable and satellite PayPerView providers.

You can also find it on the website for The Hammer movie.

Thoughts? Discussion?

The Hammer brings up many interesting topics for discussion. If you watched the movie, tell us what you thought:

  • Did you like the movie?
  • What did it leave you thinking about?
  • If you could ask Matt "The Hammer" Hamill or the Producers/Director of the movie a question, what would you ask them?

We would love to hear your thoughts! Leave your comment below or on the Signing Savvy Facebook Page.


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