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ASL class offered at WSD in Delavan

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Ian Gronau | December 2, 2013

DELAVAN--You may walk right past the room in Kastner Hall on the Wisconsin School for the Deaf campus without even noticing that there are 30 to 60 people learning a new language inside. This is because, for the most part, the instruction is completely silent.

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Every Monday evening the basement room fills with interested community members and family members of deaf and hard of hearing people to take an American Sign Language class. Wisconsin School for the Deaf teachers Alyson Urdahl, Donna Karpas and David Copeland are all deaf themselves, and they instruct the class by using the exact skill they are trying to teach.

WSD has been offering ASL classes to the public since the mid-1990s, and with the exception of a $40 instructional book, the class is free. The weekly courses that run from early October through late April are set up by levels: beginners, children's and level two.

For people such as Jolene and Wendy Esch, these free classes make a huge difference. Sixteen months ago Jolene's son was born profoundly deaf, which is the highest classification of hearing loss, and her mother, Wendy, has been accompanying her in the most recent rotation of classes. Although picking up the new skill is proving to be a challenge, they hope to gain fluency in the language soon.

 “Some people are here just trying to pick up a second language, which is great, but we have a reason,” Wendy Esch said. “I want to be able to talk to my grandson.”

 Wendy Esch said she'd probably pick up sign language faster if she had more time to practice. The most difficult part, for her, is incorporating the important facial expressions that are linked to certain signs, she said.

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