On January 20th, Special Smiles hosted its first virtual workshop, “Basic American Sign
Language”. The event was taught by Ashlee Butler, a nurse and the wife of D’24 Ken Butler. We
reviewed the Tufts patient interpretation services and guidelines, communication concepts in
ASL, the alphabet, numbers and key dental terminology.
I think the American Sign Language workshop provided a great opportunity to learn the basics
of ASL and create a connection with patients. The workshop was the first time I had received
any sign language instruction and I feel like I learned some great insights just from just this one
experience. Body language is so important – as I simultaneously practiced the signs we were
learning and tried to remember to furrow my eyebrows to emote concern, how I did this made
a difference. Facial expressions can change the context while signing and is an important factor
to keep in mind. I also recognized the important distinction that sign language is its own
language – it’s different from English with its own grammar structure, idioms, concepts, and
varies across cultures.
There were 80+ participants and it was really nice to see everyone engaged in the event by
asking questions and interacting with their cameras on. Seeing the genuine interest and
positivity from everyone who participated really helped to make this event successful. I think by
learning the basics of ASL, we are creating the foundation for an inclusive dental environment.
– Nikesha Walters, D’22