SC State University’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Program Offers a Course in Sign Language

Monday, December 21, 2009

SPA 495The Christmas spirit filled the halls of the Old Dawn Center on the campus of SC State University. The Center is home to the University’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Program, where students clad in Santa hats were recently engaged in learning using a different approach.

As a requirement for the Introduction to Manual Communication course, students entertained their peers by performing holiday songsin sign language for Dr. Wilson’s Introduction to Audiology class. These songs provide an easier way for students to learn. “I use songs in order to help students learn and retain vocabulary,” says Lorraine Adcox, an instructor and clinical supervisor for the Speech Pathology and Audiology Program at SC State. “Usually when you learn how to sign a familiar song, you can remember the sign vocabulary much more easily than when you just try to memorize lists of words,” continued Adcox. Adcox also utilizes expressive workbook exercises, dialogues and games, such as sign language Jeopardy to help students learn and use new vocabulary.

This form of entertainment also provides a way for more people to become aware of the language of the deaf and the deaf community. According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, American Sign Language (ASL) is said to be the fourth most commonly used language in the United States.  ASL is also the native language of many deaf Americans, and as students of communication disorders, some exposure to this unique language can be extremely beneficial. 

Adcox notes that as potential service providers for deaf clients in the future, speech-language pathology and audiology students should learn something about not only the language of the deaf, but also about the culture and community of the deaf in the United States. According to Dr. Gwendolyn Wilson, chair of the Department of Health Sciences and director of the Speech Pathology and Audiology Program, “some knowledge of the history of this community and sensitivity to forms of manual communication is essential to students who may assist parents in choosing appropriate educational programs for their deaf child.”

It is significant to understand, for example, that many deaf individuals in this country do not consider their deafness to be a disability, seeing it more as a “difference,” like the idea that left-handedness is different from the norm. Many people are also surprised when they learn that ASL is not merely a manual form of English, but is a completely different language with its own rules of syntax, grammar, inflection and punctuation. Consequently, the Speech Pathology and Audiology Program offers Manual Communication as a service course to all SC State students. Students from other majors, such as education, nursing, social work and rehabilitative counseling have been enrolled in this course.

For more information about SPA 495, Introduction to Manual Communication, contact the Speech Pathology and Audiology Department at (803) 536-8073. You may also contact Lorraine Adcox at (803) 536-8879, or via email at