Club builds sign language skills and awareness

January 15, 2010

Every week a group of students gathers to talk -- without opening their mouths. The Penn State Sign Language Organization (PSSLO) provides students a chance to learn about deafness and sign language, practice their signing skills and get involved in service events.

PSSLO is open to students of all majors and all levels of sign language proficiency, from those whose only “signing” experience is waving someone on at an intersection to those who communicate primarily through signing. At weekly meetings students can learn about deafness and sign language and practice their signing in a number of ways, including charades and finger-spelling activities.

“It’s a fun way to get to know people and practice sign language in a social environment,” said Alli Stender, a communication sciences and disorders major and activities chair for PSSLO.

The organization also holds movie nights regularly, and students gather on a monthly basis for silent dinners, which provide a different social context in which they can gain signing experience. Although they do occasionally talk, communication at the dinners is primarily through signing.

Later this year the organization plans on traveling to Gallaudet University, a leader in liberal education and career development for deaf and hard of hearing undergraduate students. In the past the organization has attended performances and campus tours at Gallaudet.

Outreach and service is another focus of the organization. Students regularly "can" for THON, and they plan service events such as hosting story time with local libraries and meeting with the Girl Scouts to promote awareness of deafness and sign language.

“We’re always looking for ways to bring American Sign Language and deafness to people in the community who haven’t experienced it,” said Sommar Chilton, instructor in communication sciences and disorders and faculty adviser to the club.

Those interested in learning about PSSLO can contact Chilton at or visit

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 26, 2010