Sign of Trouble for Local Deaf Students

Houston County, AL -Shea Mitchell is like most three year olds.

“She’s into everything. Has her own likes and dislikes. Her own attitude problems,” said her mom Beth.

She’s just started preschool at Ashford Elementary School.

“The other students seemed to like her as much as she liked them. She was giving hugs in the first 15 minutes,” said Mitchell.

Shea is even ahead of many of the kids.

Mitchell added, “She knows her colors. Knows how to count.”
And the alphabet? That’s not a challenge either.

But unlike most of her peers, Shea needs a sign language interpreter. That’s a need that goes far beyond Ashford Elementary School.

Houston County Schools Special Education Coordinator Denise Whitfield said, “Actually at the end of this school year I’m losing two of our current interpreters. That will be put me without three interpreters for students.”

Whitfield said there is a shortage of certified sign language interpreters. Because of state regulations she can only hire someone who has a state license.

In order to receive a state interpreter license you must pass a written and performance exam.

“If I can’t find an interpreter, then I can’t provide one. If I had a magic wand I would be waving it three times today, and I would have three interpreters to take care of these children,” said Whitfield.

Shea is also helping others learn sign language. You can visit her Facebook page “Signing with Shea” to learn a word a day.

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