Title: 'Massachusetts Family Sign Language Program: A Model for Effective Family-Centered Sign Language Instruction'
Track: 6-Family Issues
Keyword(s): language acquisition, sign language instruction, cultural and linguistic role models
Learning Objectives: *Identify the components of a successful family sign language program *Understand the impact of home based instruction provided by cultural and linguistic role models *Develop strategies for replicating features of the program in their geographic areas *Develop strategies for recruiting and training instructors who are deaf or hard of hearing *Identify critical stakeholders and program collaborators


Language acquisition at a very early age is critical and leads to the development of literacy skills needed throughout every child’s life. The primary goal of the Massachusetts Family Sign Language Program is to introduce family members who have a child with a hearing loss to Sign Language, enabling them to communicate with and begin their child’s language acquisition at the earliest age possible. Working closely with Early Intervention Centers across the state, this innovative program provides 20 weeks of Sign Language Instruction free of charge in the home for families of children with a hearing loss 0-3 years of age. Extended family members and caregivers are encouraged to participate. The Gallaudet University Regional Center operates the program through a contract with the MA Department of Public Health and employs trained adults from the deaf community as instructors who serve as cultural and linguistic role models for families. In addition to the learning of age-appropriate sign vocabulary, families learn to apply the signs learned to everyday family life. FSLP instructors also share their knowledge of Deaf culture and teach the family to make their communications more visual and accessible for their child. Instructors also use familiar objects and surroundings of the home as tools for teaching communication skills and take advantage of incidental learning opportunities. The presenters will review the major components of this successful program and describe collaborations with major stakeholders including the Newborn Infant Hearing Screening Program and the MA Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. An active Advisory Board of professionals, family members, and instructors regularly provides programmatic input. The information shared in this presentation will assist professionals in the field of Early Intervention interested in providing families with culturally sensitive support in developing skills to communicate with their child with a hearing loss.
Presentation: This presentation has not yet been uploaded or the speaker has opted not to make the presentation available online.
Handouts: Handout is not Available
Kathleen Vesey - Gallaudet University Regional Center
     Credentials: M.B.A., Boston University MA, Gallaudet University, BA, Regis College
      Ms. Vesey has been the director of the Gallaudet University Regional Center at Northern Essex Community College since 1990. Previously she directed a large K-12 program serving students who are deaf and hard of hearing in southeastern MA. She has worked professionally as an administrator, educator, and counselor. Ms. Vesey is currently on the Advisory Board for the MA Newborn Hearing Screening Program. She has been instrumental in adapting the Shared Reading Program to include families with children with hearing losses who speak Spanish in the home.
Glenys Crane-Emerson - Family Sign Language Program
     Credentials: BA, Social Work
      Ms. Crane-Emerson is currently the Coordinator of the Massachusetts Family Sign Language Program. Her experience includes provision of sign language instruction for families in their homes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In addition, she provides instruction for family members participating in a monthly Shared Reading Saturdays Program operated by the GURC. Ms. Crane-Emerson also has experience as an instructor of American Sign Language, and as a job coach and employment mentor. She is an active member of the deaf community.