Morphosyntactic Empathy

I posted this on a class forum, re-read, and realized it was far too creative for clinical lingo… decided to post here.

I feel that I have had the most enriching, enlightening experience this semester working with 6 students with hearing impairment. They are all in the same X grade mainstream class, with an interpreter and pull-out SLP/TOHI/SpEd services. Five of them are fluent in ASL; 2 have cochlear implants; 1 is getting CI this summer; 1 identifies strongly with his hearing peers; and 1 is also a user of African American English (and not ASL). So enamored with the illustrative and comedic nature of ASL that my students so beautifully portrayed, that I took up a beginner’s ASL course. Inspired to learn more, I’ve mastered a few signs that help me when I lead sessions (but most importantly, fingerspelling). I’m constantly consulting visual ASL dictionaries online to translate and figure out what they’re trying to convey using their hands. Because ASL is so very visual and its grammar is so different from that of verbal SAE, digging deeper allowed me to also unveil the inner workings of the language structures in their minds, framed by the structures and limits placed upon their linguistic perceptions by their language. Not only can i identify their translation of ASL grammar into spoken English (eg, “Me eat yesterday” for “I ate yesterday”), but I can – just a little more clearly than before – understand their perspective, which is such a huge part of empathizing.

Morphosyntactic Empathy