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Family Members in Spanish-speaking Households Learning to Communicate with Deaf Children Through Signing


Article by: Melinda Eddleman

For Linda Lugo, volunteering to teach parents and grandparents to communicate with their deaf youth in Spanish using American Sign Language is a labor of love. The adjunct instructor with Del Mar College’s American Sign Language & Interpreting Program, is a certified deaf education teacher who works with Webb Elementary third through fifth graders with CCISD’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf.

Lugo also is deaf.

Through interpreting by Lucy James, associate professor and director of the College’s ASL & Interpreting Program, Lugo signed, “I grew up with my mother only speaking Spanish, even before she passed away, so it was always a struggle for me to communicate with her since American Sign Language was only taught in English.”

“Although ASL may be taught in Spanish in some places now, the materials are still in English,” Lugo noted, adding, “Because only Spanish was spoken in their households, many of my students at Webb Elementary came to me and expressed, ‘I need for Mom and Dad to sign with me.’”

Now in its fourth week, the class is held every Tuesday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. with participants building on what they’ve learned during the previous class. Lugo teaches the course while two Del Mar ASL & Interpreting Program graduates, Santiago “Jim” Galvan and Mari Rivera, assist with the class as certified interpreters who are also fluent in Spanish.

“It’s not easy for Spanish-speaking parents to learn American Sign Language because, in general, all of our materials use written English,” James said. “This class is using written and spoken Spanish to provide some basic sign language communication for these families who have deaf children.”

Lugo said that six to eight families participate each week. As the third time to meet on Feb. 6, the class included 22 individuals learning signing for conversational Spanish.

Communicating with your children is important no matter the language. Without communication, there’s nothing.
Linda Lugo, DMC Adjunct Instructor and Webb Elementary Teacher with CCISD’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf

Iris Garcia-Estrada, mother of seven-year-old Hector Estrada, speaks fluent English and Spanish but explained that the class was a perfect opportunity to get her deaf son’s grandparents involved with communicating with him. “Before this class, it was only the parents communicating with Hector using ASL in our household. We now have a sense of community because his grandparents are involved,” she said.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states on their website (http://bit.ly/1R6Ssm0) that “about 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears, and more than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents.

James estimates that between 150 to 225 youth under age 18 with hearing loss live in Corpus Christi. “If half or more of those youth live in predominately Spanish-speaking families, we have a large number of families who haven’t had easy access to learn sign language in order to communicate with their children,” she said..


About Del Mar College

Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.