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What is National American Sign Language Day?

The national day has ties to Connecticut, as it's the same day the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in West Hartford opened back in 1817.

HARTFORD, Conn. — April 15 is National American Sign Language Day. It's a day to celebrate and honor the unique language that is spoken not by mouth but by hand, using gestures and signals.

The national day also has ties to Connecticut, as it was the same day the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in West Hartford had opened, back in 1817.

A few years prior, Yale graduate Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet went to Europe to learn about educating deaf children. He met Laurent Clerc, a French deaf teacher, and the two went back to the U.S. and established what is now known as ASD.

In the school's early days, American Sign Language (ASL) was created, using a combination of Native American Signs, French Sign Language, and Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language, according to deafchildren.org.

ASL day also coincides with April's National Deaf History Month, which raises awareness of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

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ASD's executive director, Jeff Bravin, is fourth-generation Deaf and said he was raised in a family that always used sign language.

"I was born and raised in the ASL environment. My parents, my family, signed at all times, and so that has always been my language," Bravin said through an interpreter. "And to see it used everywhere is amazing."

During his time as a social studies teacher and as the exec. director of ASD, Bravin has found that language acquisition is crucial to a child's growth, regardless of whether or not they can hear.

"It's important that we have that language acquisition happening at the earliest stages for children. Once a child is past 7 or 8 years old, language is much harder to acquire, so the earlier you can provide that language access, including spoken and sign language, the best it can be for the kids," Bravin added.

Want to learn how to sign? ASD has classes for people of all ages to learn how to use ASL, including infants.

"I just want to encourage people to learn sign language. It will benefit you," Fatima Silvestre, a Deaf Certified Interpreter at ASD, said through an interpreter. "You will come across deaf people, maybe at a Starbucks or maybe at another local business. I would encourage you to take every opportunity, even if you know just a little bit of sign."

Information on ASL classes can be found here.

Leah Myers is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at lmyers@fox61.com


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