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A television first: An all ASL episode (American sign language)

Switched at Birth, now in its second season on ABC Family, tells a tale of two infant girls switched at birth in a hospital error. The error brings two families, from different sides of the tracks, into daily contact. The working class Vasquez Family is made of three generations of women, while the affluent Kennish Family is the perceived traditional family with a mom, dad and two children.

In the first season the families learned of the switch and the hearing loss, caused by meningitis, of the Kennish’s birth daughter. When tempers flare, accusations are thrown,  lawsuits considered, and emotions run amuck, both families find that they do not want to  switch daughters back, but would rather get to know their birth daughters.

Because  Daphne Vasquez, played by hard of hearing actress Katie Leclerc, is deaf her mother and grandmother, played by Constance Marie and Ivonne Coll, respectively, are able to communicate in American Sign Language (ASL). With the Kennish family making an effort to learn ASL, and with many of the school scenes taking place at a school for the deaf, ASL is an integral part of the series.

The show met controversy early in its run when a deaf ASL teacher said that Leclerc wasn’t “deaf enough” to play a deaf character. In truth, the show has brought the general public an awareness of the deaf community and its degrees of hearing loss and has characters who are both verbal and non-verbal.

This evening’s episode is a television first, the show will air with all ‘dialogue’ done in American Sign Language, with captions for those of us who do not know ASL. It should prove to be both entertaining and enlightening.

Check out a sneak peek of the episode:

About Eileen Rivera

Eileen was born in The Bronx, to Puerto Rican parents. She grew up thinking the whole world was Latino. Moving to Rockland County in upstate New York taught her it wasn’t. One more move in 1976, brought her to Hudson County, New Jersey where she currently resides. She attended Rutgers-Newark where she majored in Social Work with a minor in Puerto Rican studies. Eileen credits her history professor, Dr. Olga Wagenheim, for the spark and impetus to search out her roots in a pre-computer era. The daughter of a minister, she credits her father for the activism, volunteerism and search for justice that have characterized her adult years.

The mother of two adult daughters, Eileen has worked in the Juvenile Justice system for twenty-eight years. She acts as a liaison between the Juvenile Detention Center and the Juvenile Court.

Writing was something she shared with family. Stories and songs for her children and Christmas tales for the extended family. She now shares her writing with a larger family, the Being Latino family.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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