Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sign of promise: EPCC teaches sign language at early childhood center

Source Link - Sign of promise: EPCC teaches sign language at early childhood center

Ruby Ruiz was born deaf, but the condition wasn't diagnosed until she was 5.

A lifelong El Pasoan who now works with the deaf and those with hearing impediments, she says El Pasoans aren't very much aware of the deaf culture in the city.

Ruiz, 43, is a sign language instructor at El Paso Community College who is now working with a West Side early childhood learning center to teach its young students how to sign.

Many people with hearing problems are isolated and resistant to acknowledge their condition, Ruiz said. She wasn't introduced to sign language until her diagnosis. After graduating from Austin High School and starting college, Ruiz decided she wanted to become a sign language instructor.

"I decided to learn about the deaf culture and work as an interpreter, help them give feedback,"she said.

It is thought that about 4,000 people in El Paso are deaf or have a hearing impediment, Ruiz said.

This fall, Flying Colors Learning Center is implementing sign language in its curriculum.

"As they grow older, children will develop sign language," said Denise Leal, director of Flying Colors on the West Side.

The center takes care of about 200 children. At least two children are deaf or have a hearing impediment, Leal said.

She said implementing sign language instruction into the curriculum is a way to reach out to the deaf community.

Leal said Flying Colors decided to work with El Paso Community College to provide sign language training for the staff.
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Last week about 50 people attended a sign language workshop at Flying Colors, 600 E. Redd Road.

Sylvia Montelongo, a student at EPCC and vice president of its sign language club, said her club wants to partner with local agencies to promote sign language.

She said El Pasoans are not aware of the deaf community, while people with hearing problems tend to be isolated.

"They are in our community and they are productive citizens. I don't think a lot of people know about them," she said.

Montelongo said introducing children to sign language at an early age enables them to develop a broader vocabulary and helps them relate to people with a hearing problem.

"It's amazing for children! Because before they can talk, they can move their hands. They're able to get along with deaf children," Montelongo said.

Jeanette Lawrence, 33, said her 3- year-old, Alexa, enjoys showing her the new signing words she learns at Flying Colors.

"Apples" and "mama" were among the first words her daughter learned in sign language, she said.

Lawrence said sign language helps children without a hearing impediment improve their communication skills at an early age.

Michael Hicks, owner of Flying Colors Learning Center, said he hopes other centers follow up and introduce sign language to more young children.

He said sign language lessons have also been introduced at the Flying Colors center on the East Side.

Aileen B. Flores may be reached at aflores@elpasotimes.com; 546-6362.