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Seeking a Career in ASL and Helping Deaf Students:


-----Original Message-----
A Student a high school in Virginia, USA writes:
Subject: Careers in ASL and Helping Deaf Students

Hello Dr. Bill, my name is Jennifer. I have been using your website, Lifeprint, for about a month now. About two months ago, I signed up for an ASL club at my school and then a week after that we had our first meeting. When I was in elementary school I learned some ASL but forgot most of it. After the first meeting I feel in love with doing ASL. I am in 11th grade in high school and I have been looking into careers in ASL and helping Deaf students. I was hoping that maybe you can give me a few tips and try and help me. I feel like I want to do ASL for the rest of my life. Hopefully you can help me and thanks for taking the time to read my email. Have a great day!

- Jennifer ________
[Last Name deleted and other minor edits were made to respect Jennifer's privacy]


My recommendation is to use any of the popular search apps to do a search for the following topics:
ASL classroom assistant jobs
Deaf education assistant jobs
Teaching Assistant School For Deaf
Deaf paraeducator jobs near me
(and similar searches)

Then read the "position qualifications" lists carefully.

Even if you are not qualified for any of the positions yet -- reading through the job descriptions and qualification requirements will give you an understanding of how to become qualified for such positions. Then after you have obtained an entry-level position you can gain valuable "hands on" experience while taking classes during the evenings and the summers to further prepare yourself for higher-paying positions with more responsibility.

Knowing sign language is not enough.  Are you strong enough to lift a squirming kid? If not you might want to start lifting weights.  Are you patient enough to deal with a kid who hits you or spits on you without striking or slapping the child?  If not you might want to participate in an anger management workshop. Do you understand acronyms like IEP, CPR, AED, and CPPI? If not you might want to start a notebook wherein you write down such acronyms and then look them up and start memorizing them and figuring out what they mean.  Are you able to keep careful records?  If not you might want to start practicing or take a bookkeeping or accounting course just for the practice. Do you understand how voicing and signing at the same time creates an unlevel playing field for individuals who are Deaf?  If not you probably need to take a Deaf Culture class. Are you familiar with the fact that many Deaf Education programs incorporate some amount of signed English?  If you have a bad attitude about or limited point of view regarding the "wide variety of signing styles in existence" you might want to attend dozens of Deaf Coffee Socials (and other socials) to get a feel for the real world signing styles out there beyond what your classroom ASL teacher has shown you.  Are you able to drive?  If you are physically able and old enough to drive but don't have a driver's license it would be a good idea to take a driver's education course.

Just knowing sign language doesn't mean you are qualified to work with Deaf children.  Look over the list below of typical entry level responsibilities and ask yourself: "How can I prepare myself to be able to carry out these responsibilities?"


Assist in providing a language and communication model based on the individual needs of the student.
Assist in the development and implementation of IEP (Individualized Education Plan) goals, objectives and strategies.
Assist students in helping them to control their behaviors.
Assist with lifting and transferring.
Demonstrate an understanding of the general curriculum as well as the expanded core curriculum.
Develop and prioritize measurable objectives for students, both short and long term.
Develop performance measures and inform students of the criteria for success.
Evaluate student performance, keep records, and reports progress in learning.
Implement behavioral interventions and communication skills.
Perform other related duties and tasks as assigned.
Promote student independence, self-confidence, and development of social, organizational, and other critical skills to the maximum extent possible.
Provide and monitor direct care tailored to the student's individual performance levels and needs of students in a manner which respects student rights to privacy and dignity.
Provide the appropriate level of physical assistance to students and assist student participation in all activities.
Provide direct care, independent living skills training and classroom assistance.
Take initiative to plan activities that meet the development level of the student.

Minimum Requirements:
High School diploma
Sign Language

Willingness to complete and maintain:
First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification
Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certification
Crisis Prevention and Physical Intervention (CPPI) certification

Preference may be given to candidates with:
Associates degree
Bachelors degree
Experience working with special needs children

Valid drivers license and willingness to drive school vehicles

Individual schools will have various other requirements or preferred qualifications, so read a variety of different "help wanted" ads or "position vacancy" postings to further refine you understanding of how to prepare to work in a Deaf field.

Deaf Education is a book-length topic. Actually it is a multiple-book-length topic covered in bachelors and masters degree programs so a "blog post" isn't going to cover the topic but there is one very important "job skill" that not enough emphasis has been placed on -- so I'll mention it here and I'm going to be very blunt about this:

Are you able to control yourself in regard to sexual boundaries?

If not -- how do you feel about becoming a national headline and going to prison? 

When you are in a position of authority or influence over others you need the common sense and self-control to behave yourself.

Warm regards,

-- Dr. Bill
William G. Vicars Ed.D.


Also, for what it is worth, there are typically some benefits to working for a school district:

comprehensive benefits package
Life insurance
LTD (Long Term Disability)
medical and dental insurance
retirement programs
staff development and training
summers off / winter and spring recess breaks
tuition reimbursement

An interesting possible additional benefit to working as an assistant Educator of the Deaf is if you are working at an actual residential school for the Deaf you may also have the option of "housing" on campus and be able to participate in the campus meal plan.

Speaking of food -- you might want to get a food handlers permit in case an opportunity opens up at a residential school for a cafeteria worker.  You don't have to stay in the cafeteria your whole career -- you can simply use it as additional experience while you are preparing and becoming qualified for some other position.

Indeed (2019) Search: "Teaching Assistant School For Deaf", Indeed job listing search engine, Retrieved 12/02/2019 from:
https: //www (dot) indeed (dot) com/viewjob?jk=ce5da1399d837cf8&tk

Research notes: Indeed ( is an American worldwide employment-related search engine for job listings launched in November 2004. It is a subsidiary of Japan's Recruit Co. Ltd. and is co-headquartered in Austin, Texas and Stamford, Connecticut .

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