The American School for the Deaf, located in West Hartford, Connecticut, is the oldest school for the deaf in the United States. Its founding in 1817 by a group of advocates, including Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, marked a significant moment in American deaf history, as it established the first permanent school for deaf children in the country.
The school's founding was inspired by Alice Cogswell, a young deaf girl who was the daughter of a prominent Hartford family. Her father, Dr. Mason Cogswell, sought to provide her and other deaf children with an education. He met with Gallaudet, who traveled to Europe to learn about deaf education, and then brought Laurent Clerc, a deaf Frenchman, to America to teach.
Together, Gallaudet and Clerc established the American School for the Deaf, which opened its doors in 1817. The school was an immediate success, and it quickly became a model for other schools for the deaf throughout the country.
In the early years, the school's curriculum focused primarily on oral education, with students being taught to speak and read lips. However, as sign language became more widely accepted and recognized as a legitimate language, the school shifted its focus to a bilingual approach, with students learning both English and American Sign Language (ASL).
The American School for the Deaf has been a pioneer in the field of deaf education, developing many innovative programs and practices that have been adopted by schools for the deaf around the world. Today, the school continues to provide a comprehensive education for deaf and hard of hearing students from preschool through high school, as well as offering a variety of services and programs to support the deaf community.
The American School for the Deaf's rich history and legacy continue to inspire and influence the field of deaf education, as well as the broader movement for disability rights and accessibility.