History of American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) is the sign language of individuals in the United States. It is often overlooked as a great resource for individuals that need or want a different method of communication other than verbally. This is not limited to the community but also utilized by many other people including families with children that have autism. American Sign Language has been researched and proven to be a great resource for children that need a visual language to help strengthen language acquisition. As opposed to what many parents are told by Oral Only Option programs, the acquisition of ASL is not proven to block off learning of speech. This has been proven in autistic children, why wouldn't this be true for every other child?
Sign language has been identified as one of the best ways to strengthen speech and language development of an autistic child. According to research the use of sign language increases the chance of children learning the spoken language (Lindsay Peterson)
With this fascinating statement, one can't help but wonder how American Sign Language came into fruition. Juan Pablo de Bonet created and published the first book on sign language in 1620 (Butterworth & Flodin, 1995) but it was not until 115 years later that there was a school that utilized sign language in a school at no cost for children. The school was established in Paris in 1755 by Abbe Charles Michael de L'Eppe. With the establishment of the school, Charles' ideas of gestures and fingerspelling to form whole phrases and words was created.
This is not the initial establishment of American Sign Langauge (ASL) but it is the roots of the language. The influence of French idea (by Charles) and the Indians from the Great Plains in America is what initiated ASL and is a heavy influence on the way it is today. Thomsas Hopkins Gallaudet had studied the French ways and then brought it to America in 1817 and founded the first school for the Deaf in America.
As the fourth most used language in America (ironically, people say spoken when it is not a spoken language but a signed language) according to Jacob Lewis ASL system is the most comprehensive, complete, and expressive systems of signed language in the world today. ASL is a useful language to know so people can communicate with others in an unique language that is unlike any other language in America!