About Us

Northeastern University’s American Sign Language Program was awarded a U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration grant for $2 million to establish the Center for Atypical Language Interpreting (CALI). The project will address the growing demand for interpreters with specialized skills to serve Deaf and DeafBlind persons with atypical language.

The five-year project officially launched on January 3, 2017. One of the initial endeavors is to record samples of atypical ASL. A language analysis team comprised of MJ Bienvenu, Dennis Cokely, Christopher Kaftan, Daniel Langholtz, and Anna Witter-Merithew will then analyze the samples and create a matrix of indicants and descriptors of atypical language. In partnership with Neil Glickman, work has also begun on the development of an annotated bibliography of print and video media dealing with atypical language, language dysfluency, and language deprivation.

Building on this foundation and other effective practices research, a Program of Study will be created and offered to experienced interpreters beginning in 2018. The Program of Study will include online modular instruction, a face-to-face Communication Negotiation Classroom experience, and a Practical Experience Placement. Initially, the online instructional modules will be available only to those accepted into the full Program of Study. Once established, however, the online modules will be opened to a wider audience of working interpreters, interpreting educators, and other stakeholders who wish to study their content.

After interpreters accepted into the Program of Study have completed the online modules, they will begin both the Practical Experience Placement and the Communication Negotiation Classroom. Running side by side, these training opportunities will provide supervised, onsite, work-related experience as well as opportunities for observation, interaction, and when appropriate, hands-up supervised interpreting experience with Deaf and DeafBlind persons whose language is atypical. For five days, participants will spend time in mock interpreting experiences, case study analysis, and discussion of their experiences with a variety of Deaf and DeafBlind persons onsite. These avenues are designed to 1) increase participants’ practical experience, 2) provide opportunities to reflect on their performance with experienced instructors and onsite supervisors, and 3) improve their confidence in applying their newfound skills and knowledge.

Upon completion of the Program of Study, practitioners will engage in a supervised induction process for 40 hours over the course of 16 weeks. This post-program induction program is designed to provide participants ongoing supervision and guidance on the job. The plan is to provide working interpreters a clear path toward obtaining or advancing in employment working with Deaf and DeafBlind persons whose language is atypical.

In addition to the educational opportunities mentioned above, CALI at Northeastern University will provide opportunities for participation in online Communities of Practice and webinars. All training activities will be offered for RID Continuing Education Units.

The CALI team includes Dennis Cokely, Principal Investigator; Diana Doucette, Director; Madeleine Eames, Project Coordinator; individual consultants; and a partner network of agencies and programs serving interpreters and individuals who are Deaf and DeafBlind.