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Signs of life

UD nursing student produces pamphlet of medical terms in sign language

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11:43 a.m., June 7, 2011--An overwhelming majority of the parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing are not fluent in American Sign Language, reflecting a communication disconnect that could be critical in a medical emergency. Now, a simple pamphlet created by University of Delaware nursing student Allyson Hayes is available to help these children tell their caregivers how they’re feeling.

Hayes completed her community clinical rotation at the Delaware School for the Deaf in Newark this spring. Working in the office of school nurse Terri Boothe, she recognized a need to inform parents about signs their children might use in answering questions about their symptoms when they don’t feel well.

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Hayes wrote some brief explanatory text and collected images of signs for nine symptoms—including cough, itchy, temperature, nausea and dizzy—as well as seven terms connected with hospitals, such as nurse, doctor, emergency, medicine and allergy.

The resulting brochure, “Important Signs for You and Your Child,” was sent home to parents of children attending the school, but it also caught the attention of a school administrator, and plans have since been made for it to be used by Delaware’s Statewide Programs for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf Blind Services.

“Allyson has made a great impact on her accurate assessment of the needs of the deaf population and created a visually pleasing and accurate brochure that will stay in use with this population,” says Karen Avino, assistant professor who teaches the community health clinical segment in UD’s School of Nursing. “I believe she should be recognized for making a difference.” 

Hayes, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, is unsure of her career plans—but she knows that she wants to work with children. Her experience at the Delaware School for the Deaf also had an impact on her perception of people with disabilities. 

“The issue of communication never occurred to me until I worked with the kids at the school,” she says. “But I learned that it’s really important because these kids are sick a lot, and it’s critical for them to be understood when they’re conveying a medical problem to others.”

Article by Diane Kukich

Video by Andrea Boyle

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

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