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This podcast is brought to you by Hiscox Insurance, they specialize in customized insurance for small businesses of all size. You can learn more at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, and Courage. This week, I am excited to introduce an individual who has taken it upon herself to teach parents, educators, first responders, heck even dogs, sign language. Her business has changed the way that families and towns can take care of and communicate with people with access and functional needs, including individuals within the autistic community. The wonder woman behind all of this is Louise Mason Sattler, and today we’ll talk with her about why she does what she does, how her company went from a door to door DVD-selling business to one that has shaped the environment of entire communities and towns, and where she finds the courage to keep going. Hi Louise.
LOUISE: How are you, Jessica?
JESSICA: I am doing great, thank you so much for being with us today.
LOUISE: Thanks so much for inviting me.
JESSICA: Louise, can you tell us a little bit about American Sign Language, or ASL?
LOUISE: Well, first off people think American Sign Language is just English on your hands, and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you go to England, they don’t even use American Sign Language. Do you know how frustrating that is to be in the motherland, in London, and not being able to convert with deaf people? But we actually stole it from the French along with fine wine and croissants. And so the word order is—
JESSICA: That’s the trifecta, right?
LOUISE: That’s the trifecta, yes.
JESSICA: Wine, croissants, and ASL.
LOUISE: ASL, right. So sign language sort of switched over the years—and you see I’m signing now, once you get me talking about sign language, the hands just start moving.
JESSICA: I love it. I know, I have the benefit of being here with you live and—
JESSICA: Well, I did my little homework before this—it’s the fourth most common language in the US, which—that blew me away, it’s amazing.
LOUISE: And you want me to tell you the other three? I know this is a quiz.
JESSICA: Okay, go, go.
LOUISE: So—because I knew that. The first one, of course, is English. The second is se habla espanol, and the third one is Chinese. And so sign language kind of kicked German and French to the street just a little bit. Sorry.
JESSICA: Well, it’s—I mean, it’s fantastic. It’s exciting.
LOUISE: Yeah, it is. It even has, in most states, the popularity now as being accepted as a foreign language, and in schools and in colleges, which is fabulous. So I think what’s important is that—ASL used to kind of be in the closet, and now it’s everywhere, and because of the awareness is much more accepted.
JESSICA: Well, I would love to move on to understanding Signing Families’ founding story. So let’s back way up. How did you first get involved with signing and with ASL?
LOUISE: I had roommates in college, and they were learning to sign. They were education majors, and we would go out to the clubs, and they would be signing, and I’d be like, “Uh, no. You’re not going to be doing that talking with your hands, and I’m not going to know what you’re saying.” So I took a sign language class, and then I took another, and then I took another, and before you knew it I was proficient and they forgot everything they learned.
JESSICA: Oh no.
LOUISE: But then fast forward, I became a school psychologist and worked in a school for the deaf, and then worked in other school settings. And we would always sit around the table, for instance children with autism, “Your child could probably benefit from learning manual communication because they are having problems producing speech, so maybe this would be a really good avenue. Would you like to take some sign language classes?” And the moms—almost always it was a mom at this meeting—she would turn and look at us in the face and say, “You just finished telling me that my child needed a one on one assistant, and I don’t have the funds to a, take a class, and b, get a babysitter for my special needs child.” So I went home feeling really sad, time after time, and I said to my husband, “Let me just put like 100 words on a DVD—or a CD at the time—and just film me using our big camera back then”—you know those big cameras?
JESSICA: Right, right.