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Community learns sign language for deaf two year old

community learns sign language

Two-year-old Samatha (Sam) Savitz loves to chat with all her neighbors, but using sign language rather than words.

Sam is deaf and is learning American Sign Language (ASL) as her main method of communication. 

She is delighted when she comes across another person who knows ASL. 

“Yea, her whole personality changes when it’s someone who can communicate with her,” Sam’s mother, Glenda Savitz told CBS

Her neighbors took notice in her eagerness to talk to others and wanted to find a way to communicate with her. As a community, they decided to hire an ASL instructor and immerse themselves in ASL, according to the news report. Twenty people ended up joining the class to learn together.

Their teacher, Rhys McGovern, told 6 ABC that she was impressed that the neighbors were learning sign language to help the young girl feel more connected with her community. 

“It’s so important for deaf babies and kids to have full access to language,” McGovern said t0 6 ABC. “What this community is doing to support Sam shows the power people have to really change one person or one family’s life.” 

Read more: Why hearing aids and sign language are a happy pair

Not the first Massachusetts community to learn sign language for its residents

Back in the 1800s, there was a high deaf population in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts and most residents knew both English and sign language.

According to Boston Magazine, 1 in 25 people in Chilmark, a small town on the island, was deaf. The sign language that the residents used was called Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) as it was before the development of American Sign Language. Deafness was widely accepted by the community and  25 in 25 people knew MVSL. Bowdoin Van Riper, the librarian at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, told The Atlantic how people in the Chilmark community treated one another.

“People tended to think of the deaf folks in Chilmark as individuals first,” Van Riper said, “and not about their disabilities, except in a peripheral way. No different than someone who’s very tall or only has one eye.”

Since the 1800s, fewer deaf residents live in Chilmark and there are few people who still know MVSL.

How to learn sign language

Sign language is a great way to immerse yourself into the deaf community. There are different ways that you can learn sign language.

  1. Take a class
  2. Use an app
  3. Watch videos online

Through learning sign language, you can connect with many other people in your community as the twenty neighbors in Newton, MA have for Sam.

Explore more methods of learning sign language here

Author Details
Kirsten is the managing editor of Hearing Like Me. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids. Outside of working for Hearing Like Me, she can be found exploring new cities, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, or hiking. She loves learning about different cultures and languages.