There was a time when LaMonica Benton said everyone in her home could communicate with her son, Shanon, except her and that wasn’t fair.
“It’s not fair to him because I’m his mom,” she said. “He’s suppose to be able to come to me to talk about whatever is on his mind, but instead he’s got to go through his siblings and vice versa.”
Why? Because Shanon was born prematurely and hearing impaired. However, his older brother took American Sign Language classes and his younger sister just caught on quickly. And Benton learned some signs from Shanon and her children, which was fine for a while.
“But it got to the point where one day, he got so frustrated and began to cry because all he wanted was ice cream and I did not know the sign for ice cream. He was very frustrated and it made me upset so I began to cry. That was the turning point,” said Benton, who had originally gone to college to become a pharmacy technician. “For two years I saved money because I wanted to go back to school full time and I didn’t want to have to work, too.”
So this time she enrolled in Lone Star College-CyFair’s Interpreter Training Program (ITP) and is now on track to complete her associate degree this December.
“When I initially started, it wasn’t to become an interpreter. It was because I wanted to learn some of the language to communicate with my son,” she said. “I thought once you learned ASL, the language, you were okay and could communicate. But when I started taking interpreting classes, I learned there was difference. You can know the language, but can you put it out there in an effective manner?”
Now she can hold conversations with her son and help him with school work. Now Shanon, who will be 10 in October, feels more comfortable going to his mom with questions and even tattling on his sister.
“Before I learned about Deaf culture, I really didn’t feel my son was normal. Now I know more about Deaf culture and I know that deaf people have a hearing loss, but they still accomplish anything in life they set their minds to,” said Benton. “I am the driving force behind my son. I believe we are as normal as anyone else. He does everything he wants, football, baseball, basketball, all the things a normal child does, he just has a hearing loss.”
Her ITP experience at LSC-CyFair has been wonderful and joyous, she said, because of ITP instructors like Jonathan Leach, Toby Welch and Leyel Hudson who make learning fun, are interesting and are “really, really patient.”
“LSC-CyFair has instructors who want you to succeed and do what they have to do to make sure you understand the information,” said Benton. “They answer everybody’s questions. The only reason you won’t get an answer, is if you don’t ask and I really, really appreciate that.”
Benton said she wants all her children to understand no matter how old they are and what obstacles they face, education is the most important thing and they can overcome and achieve like she has done. After graduation this December, Benton plans to pass the interpreting state certification exam, continue her education to earn a bachelor’s degree and possibly begin an interpreting career.
In addition to the ITP, LSC-CyFair offers ASL as a foreign language credit as well as an ASL Communication Skills Certificate to help enhance people’s resumes. ASL is also offered year round in a variety of formats such as full semester courses, 14-week or 8-week courses and day or evening courses. Introduction to Deaf Community, Deaf Culture and Introduction to the Interpreting Profession courses can be taken online.