As a Communication Sciences and Disorders major I have a background in Sign Language and was very excited about the opportunity to work with two students at M.O.P. that are deaf. It was truly an astounding and life changing experience working with these two amazing boys.
I remember when I first met them. It was at a presentation for ISEP and Mawuvio’s came to explain about volunteering there. A few of the students came with and stood up to introduce themselves. I can’t put into words how I felt when one of the boys stood up, very shyly, and finger spelled his name. After the presentation I was introduced to him. This is when I learned that all of his friends and teachers communicated with him by finger spelling and hand gestures. I introduced myself and asked him, “How are you?” and got no reply. I then tried to explain that I was going to help teach him, but also didn’t get a response. I would later learn that first interaction was so misleading because of his shyness and that he would turn out to be a very smart and energetic young boy.
About a week later, I made my way to Kissemah Village, where M.O.P. is located, and had my first interaction with both of the boys. The one I had already met wasn’t as shy; I think he had more confidence with his big brother by his side. I introduced myself to them and started to learn how much Sign Language they knew. They knew “How are you” and replied with “fine”. The more I would work with them, the more I would learn about the extent of their vocabulary. I remember trying to tell them a little about me and my family. I knew they had no idea what I was telling them, but they just smiled at me anyways. We spent that first day looking through children’s books. I tried to get a feel for what signs they knew, so I would point to a picture, sometimes they could sign the object, other times I got no response.
During the four months I was in Ghana, I would go to Mawuvio’s on average two times a week. I would stay for most of the afternoon and spent about two hours working with the two boys each time I went. I would work with them independently in the front of the school away from their classmates. I spent the first few weeks trying to get an understanding of where they were developmentally. This took time because they didn’t regularly use Sign Language.
At first, I was under the impression that they knew very little, but the more I worked with them, the more I learned about their Sign Language abilities. My first impression was that they had a vocabulary of less than fifty Signs. I would begin to learn that their Sign Language vocabulary was well over two hundred, and continued to grow. They were catching on very quickly, and learning new Signs every day. Even though they were learning and knew so much Sign Language, they didn’t use it regularly in their daily lives. It was hard though, because most of the people they communicate with don’t know Sign Language.
It truly was an amazing experience. Besides teaching these two deaf boys, I also had many great experiences with the other children as well. We took them on trips and played soccer with them.