The Williamses continued their presentation by explaining that American Sign Language (ASL) is not signed English. It is a unique language with its own syntax, grammar, and vocabulary. Most deaf individuals who sign use ASL. There are an estimated 9000 deaf individuals in SC including 1100 children with 65% to 75% of deaf adults using sign language and 35% to 65% of deaf children using sign language. However, 90% of hearing parents of deaf children have limited or no sign language skills. This communication barrier contributes to deaf children being at much higher risk of being victims of childhood physical or sexual abuse as there are more barriers to reporting abuse.
Mr. Williams explained some of the special considerations that should be taken when offering mental health services to deaf clients. The first step is to do a communication assessment to determine the client's preferred method of communication and level of communication. This includes learning if they sign, their level of sign, or if they would prefer written communication. If a client signs, an interpreter should always be provided unless the mental health provider is fluent in sign, for example a deaf counselor providing services to a deaf client.
The response to the In-Service was very positive and led to a good discussion with Beyond Abuse staff regarding what steps to take to provide better access to services for deaf clients. As President of the SC Association of the Deaf, Mrs. Williams will be hosting chapter meetings across the state, and has a future meeting planned in Greenwood. Beyond Abuse hopes to partner with her for this meeting to raise awareness of the services they provide to the deaf community.
We are grateful for organizations like Beyond Abuse who understand the importance of providing access to the communities they serve, and we look forward to our continued partnership with them and the Williams as we seek to raise awareness with organizations across the state that provide services to people that require interpretation.