(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Lacee Stanley wants to make an impact in somebody’s life. After taking American Sign Language classes at UCM, she realized teaching deaf children was how she was going to do it.
“I just want to help deaf kids really bad,” Stanley said. “I thought if I could help kids express themselves that it would be important because If you can imagine having a speech disorder and not being able to tell someone that you’re hungry or that you’re in pain or that you’re upset – to not be able to express yourself and to tell somebody what you need – I think that is what my ultimate goal for people would be.”
Stanley is a senior studying speech pathology. She said it wasn’t until she took ASL classes that she realized where her heart really was and why she wanted to teach.
“I just want to advocate for anybody with a disability,” Stanley said. “I really have this soft spot for deafness in my heart, I just think the language is really expressive and beautiful.”
Stanley is an advocate for deaf culture awareness and participated in Spotlight’s Deaf Culture event in February, where she taught participants a few words or phrases in sign language.
“I just think it’s important to advocate for things that you really, really care about,” Stanley said. “I think not enough people know the impact that deafness can have on somebody’s learning. I don’t think really people understand that if you‘re born without hearing, you’re already behind. From birth. And that’s when they should give services for kids.”
She said kids with disabilities aren’t provided proper services in school.
“I met a lady today. Her son is nine. They’re discontinuing services for him because he’s nine which is like aging out of his services,” Stanley said. “That means his services shouldn’t stop until his hearing loss stops but they stop it at a certain age or they stop services if you have a certain IQ and they don’t really recognize that kids need help in certain deficits, especially language, (language) is the foundation for every other subject.”
Stanley believes there should be teachers for every type of child.
“We need to individualize more things and we just need to pay attention to the problem and not focus on money when it comes to schools,” She said.
Stanley said by the age of 1, a child should know 50 words. She said if a child is deaf they won’t know any words because they can’t even hear their own voice sometimes.
“So that’s why most (deaf) kids graduate at like a fourth grade reading level because they don’t get English taught to them. At a deaf school, they usually push signing – that is their main form of communication,” Stanley said. “When a deaf person reads, there’s words that they don’t know because they’ve never heard them. They don’t know the rules of English, and they’re rarely taught the rules of English sometimes, it just depends on the teacher and they’ve been behind since birth so catching up takes a really, really long time.”
Stanley gets to work with a different client each semester during clinicals for her degree program.
“Right now I have a client with dyslexia,” Stanley said. “So with my clients’ needs, I make an individual plan of how we’re going to treat it and activities we’re going to do every week, and then I set up a goal.”
She said she teaches clients with dyslexia sight words – words that can’t be explained using phonetics, like the word ‘blue’ or ‘where.’
“So we teach them how to segment the word, how to memorize it, how to visualize it and get it in their brain,” Stanley said.
She said she’s been working with her current client to learn about 20 sight words.
“By the end of the semester, I hope when we retest him that when he goes through the same spelling list he gets 80 percent of them right verses missing over half of them the first time,” Stanley said.
She said she thinks teaching people about early identification of disabilities is important.
“My child is finally getting services in eighth grade,” she said about her client. “So he didn’t have those eight years to get helped…he might have not even needed therapy at this point.”
Molly White, Stanley’s friend and roommate, said Stanley found her niche in ASL.
“She came in as speech pathology, and so I think she had a lot of interest in it, but once she took an ASL class she was like, ‘That’s what I love doing,’” White said.
She thinks Stanley’s going to be a great teacher for deaf students because of her passion.
“One of the things that she always tells me is that she just really loves talking with people that may feel underrepresented, so including deaf culture people with disabilities, learning disabilities whatever it is,” White said. “It’s really cool, she just loves getting to know people. I adore it.”
After graduation in May, Stanley plans to apply for a graduate degree in deaf education.
“There are not many in-person deaf education classes, which is why sometimes schools don’t even have a teacher for the deaf or teacher for the blind kids who are disabled because there’s not really a lot of programs available,” Stanley said. “I think the education system as a whole needs to do a better job of helping kids with learning disabilities, helping kids with regular handicaps or helping children get the best education that they can.”