Fresno State’s Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies received a $1.2 million grant to improve the quality of sign language interpretation for deaf and hard of hearing students.

The grant was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs to support Fresno State’s Educational Interpreter Personnel Preparation Grant (EIPP) project.

With this grant, a minimum of 45 students, over a five-year span, will become qualified American Sign Language (ASL)/English interpreters for children and adolescents.

Dr. Peter Crume (l) and Dr. Bryan Berrett (r).

“This will make a bold impact on our students, our university, school districts and the academic success of deaf and hard of hearing children,” said Dr. Bryan Berrett, associate professor and chair of the Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies Department, who is spearheading the project with Assistant Professor Dr. Peter Crume.

There were 4,777 deaf and hard of hearing individuals in California and, of that amount, more than 1,500 were deaf and hard of hearing students integrated with hearing students, according to the 2009-10 Gallaudet Research Institute survey. The grant will help service the growing need among the community.

“The overall mission is to serve deaf students,” said Crume, who has been working on this grant since spring. “Interpreters provide a significant portion of the language access that makes education and social interaction possible. We would like to increase the number of interpreters working in educational settings, especially interpreters from underrepresented groups. Interpreting is important, but very few interpreters receive training on how to be responsive to the developmental needs of children.”

To achieve this mission, 72 percent of the $1.2 million grant will support scholarships for student interpreters. The other 28 percent will support a student language immersion program, as well as administrative costs.

The program will better prepare student interpreters to enter the workforce as graduates and help to promote strong developmental and academic outcomes for children, Crume said.

“We aim to increase an interpreter’s knowledge of language, social, cognitive and academic developmental needs of deaf children,” Crume said. “Doing so will allow for college and career readiness within deaf children.”

The department received a similar $1.2 million grant in 2013, which currently supports educators who will work with deaf and 130321CampusLife008hard of hearing children. Next year, after a visit from the Commission on Collegiate Interpreters, Fresno State anticipates being the first four-year college in California to have an accredited ASL/English interpreting program.

The Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies trains professionals in speech-language pathology, audiology, deaf education and interpreting. The program’s goal is to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing children become successful and productive citizens with full access to educational and professional opportunities.

For more information, contact Berrett at 559.278.7218 or Crume at 559.278.0351 or visit the CDDS webpage.