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  1. 1. Maida AhmadAP Lit/Comp1st Period/CorbettApril 9, 2012 Senior Project Speech 10 million: that is the number of people that are currently hard of hearing in theworld. 1 million of them are completely deaf. With the younger generation’s use ofexcessively loud music, these numbers can only skyrocket from here. The escalatingpercentage of the deaf population is also linked to the rapid rise in the use of AmericanSign Language. Every day, sign language is climbing in popularity, not only in theUnited States, but all over the globe. Hello, my name is Maida Ahmad and for my senior project, I learned signlanguage and I taught what I learned to Ashley Bridges, a student who was interested inlearning the language. I chose to learn sign language for my senior project because it’s a language thathas fascinated me for a long time. The intricate hand gestures remind me of a beautifuldance that holds a deep meaning. At the time that I was choosing a research topic in thebeginning of the year, I had a desire to become a hearing specialist. Therefore, I supposedthat in order to become a hearing specialist, I must first understand my patients, theirlifestyle, and the language that unites them so remarkably. Since the best way to learn something is to test what you know by teaching it tosomeone else, that’s exactly what I did. Once I was confident in my ability to sign, Ibegan to teach what I had already learned to Ashley. For my product, I created a
  2. 2. scrapbook to document the sign language lessons I gave Ashley. In the beginning, I wentthrough a rough time wondering what I could use as a product. Technology never worksout for me, so a video was out of the picture. Also, I have very little artistic ability, so itwould have been almost impossible to draw something sophisticated and eye-catching.Luckily, a scrapbook required neither technology nor artistic ability. I was able to useribbons, glitter, stickers, and other decorations to illuminate my creative side. After everylesson I gave Ashley, I would document what we reviewed or learned and save a page inmy scrapbook for it. I also took an abundant number of pictures to record the wonderfullessons Ashley and I had. Some problems I encountered during my process of creating a scrapbook was myextreme focus on cleanness and clarity. Since I’m a major perfectionist, there were pointsduring the process when I would spend hours on one page in an attempt to achieveprecision. I also didn’t realize how small the pages were, so I had to trim most of thepictures. Nevertheless, I’m satisfied with my choice of creating a scrapbook. Although ittook longer than I expected, the end result proved it to be worthwhile. My scrapbook relates to my research paper very significantly. After all, myresearch paper is what confirmed my decision to teach Ashley sign language, whichwould later lead to my product. Also, it was my research paper that led me to some of thebest techniques in teaching sign language to others. Some of these techniques includepointing to what you need a sign for and starting from the basics of sign language and,with a slow pace, working your way up. If it wasn’t for the simple techniques Iencountered, I doubt I could have taught so much sign language to Ashley in such a shortperiod of time without having her forget any signs.
  3. 3. My project facilitator, Andy Davis, was actually the person who influenced me toteach sign language to Ashley for my senior project. I met Andy over the summer whilevolunteering at a local daycare. The children we looked after were all under the age of 7,but a majority of them were infants. Because of this, they hadn’t learned to speak yet.One day, I noticed Andy using sign language to communicate to Emma, a 2-year old girl.As soon as she did the sign for “no biting”, Emma quickly backed off of Liam, an infantwho was lying on the ground. I was shocked, but extremely intrigued at how Emmacomprehended Andy’s gestures in a heartbeat. I was even more fascinated when Andytold me her grandmother worked as a professional interpreter in California and has signedfor some of the biggest celebrities in the world. It was Andy’s grandmother that got herinterested in sign language, and eventually, taught her the language that has become somonumental throughout the globe. Since Andy is a single mother with a job and twoyoung girls, it became difficult to meet up regularly. However, Andy introduced me toseveral books and websites that assisted me in learning sign language. Also, when wecouldn’t meet up, we stayed in touch through texts, calls, Facebook, and emails. At the beginning of the year, I began my senior project by talking. By this, I meantalking to absolutely everyone about how I could successfully learn sign language. Myteachers showed me websites, my friends introduced me to videos, my project facilitatorgave me plenty of helpful books, and my family provided me with all the support,encouragement, and words of wisdom I needed to get me through the year. Throughout the year, I used www.lifeprint.com to learn sign language. Thewebsite was so beneficial and it consisted of videos that performed signs in a very simpleand accurate manner. I began by first learning the alphabet and then continued into the
  4. 4. first 100 signs for beginners and worked my way through all the sections ranging from“family” terms all the way to “food” terms. Once I felt I had learned enough signlanguage to proceed to the next step, I began to create sentences and phrases with thevocabulary I had learned. This is also around the time I began to teach sign language toAshley. I taught sign language to Ashley the same way I taught myself, by starting at thebottom and gradually working our way up. An obstacle I faced was my decision to choose a topic that was so demanding andtime-consuming. I am already fluent in two languages, English and Urdu, so I assumedthat learning an additional language wouldn’t be too difficult. However, the gruelingworkload from three AP courses and the process of applying to colleges and scholarshipprograms began to take a toll on me. Learning an entire language in just a couple ofmonths is no easy feat and although I chose quite a complicated topic for my seniorproject, my desire to become fluent in sign language pushed me continuously throughoutthe year. Since my topic was so bulky, I spent more time on my senior project than Iintended to. However, it was the long hours I spent on learning sign language that hasbrought me success in completing it today. After completing this entire senior project, I have learned that when I put mymind to something, I can do absolutely anything. There were times during the year whenI became so stressed over school, college applications, and my senior project that Isimply wanted to stop working so hard. It was my motivation to exceed and mydedication to achieve success that provided me with boosts of energy and determinationthroughout the year. Although I have not become completely fluent in sign language, Ihave learned so many diverse signs and phrases that I know I wouldn’t be able to forget
  5. 5. them even if I tried. In fact, I hope to take a sign language course in college to continuemy journey in becoming fluent. Another fact I have learned about myself is that I no longer want to become ahearing specialist. I will continue to learn sign language for the rest of my life, but I wantto explore more diverse regions of medicine. The senior project also exposed that I havean unbreakable drive to become a respected doctor in the medical field. One of mybiggest and most ambitious goals is to become a successful doctor and make an impacton lives all around me. I hope to begin my journey in changing and saving lives in the fallat the University of Georgia, while majoring in pre-dentistry. At this time, I would like to thank you all so much for your time and I will nowanswer any questions that you have for me.