What if that were you?

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A conversation about inclusiveness leads to new coursework: Now our FACT students are learning to communicate using American Sign Language.


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The teacher stands in her classroom and tells this story: Once I had a student join my class who was completely deaf. She had been attending the North Carolina School for the Deaf where everyone communicates using American Sign Language (ASL), but when she joined my class not a single person in the school knew ASL. No one could speak to or understand her.

Then the teacher asked, what if that were you?

For a minute no one spoke; then, this: “She couldn’t talk to anyone?” “That would be so lonely.” “… and frustrating.”

Then, this: “My cousin is deaf. If I could learn ASL, I could ask him to play video games with me.”

And this: “… everybody’s different in some way.” “… I’m going to be more accepting.” “I want to learn ASL.”

Pretty impressive, right? What makes it more remarkable is that the teacher, Amanda Ball, was talking to students in our FACT specialized services classroom. These kids – who all have both a mental illness (or severe emotional disorder) and a developmental disability – have spent their entire lives being overlooked and underappreciated. And yet they were there, brainstorming ideas on how to be more supportive and understanding of others.

Learning empathy is just one facet in their journey to becoming compassionate adults. It’s part of the education they receive at FACT, which also includes learning ASL as a second language, working to build vocabulary and phrasing.

When the school year ended and grades were posted, there was much to celebrate. Every student passed the ASL final exam. They left school that day promising to practice during summer vacation and come back in August, ready to begin their second year of signing.

Learn more about our FACT day treatment and residential services.




Wynona Benson Photography