American School for the Deaf
The American School for the Deaf (ASD) is the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States. What’s more, the school became the first recipient of state aid to education in America when the Connecticut General Assembly awarded its first annual grant to the school in 1819. When the United States Congress awarded the school a land grant in the Alabama Territory in 1820, it was the first instance of federal aid to elementary and secondary special education in the United States.
The things I learn.
The American School for the Deaf (ASD) is the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States. It was founded April 15, 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc and became a state-supported school in 1817.
The first deaf school established was Virginia School for the Deaf in 1780’s, but it closed few years later.
The impetus behind its founding was the fact that Alice Cogswell, the daughter of a wealthy local surgeon (Mason Fitch Cogswell), was deafened in childhood by fever at a time when the British schools were an unacceptable substitute for a local school. Dr. Cogswell prevailed upon the young Gallaudet (who had recently graduated from Yale University’s School of Divinity and had begun studying at Andover). Gallaudet met young Alice in Hartford, where he was recovering from a chronic illness.
Cogswell and nine other citizens decided that the known 84 deaf children in New England needed appropriate facilities. However, competent teachers could not be found, so they sent Gallaudet in 1815 on a tour of Europe, where deaf education was a much more developed art. Gallaudet turned to the Parisian French schoolteachers of the famous school for the Deaf in Paris, where he successfully recruited Laurent Clerc.
On the strength of Clerc’s reputation, the ASD was incorporated as the “American Asylum for Deaf-mutes” in May, 1816. When it opened in 1817, there were seven students enrolled: Alice Cogswell, George Loring, Wilson Whiton, Abigail Dillingham, Otis Waters, John Brewster, and Nancy Orr. The original name of the school was: The Connecticut Asylum (at Hartford) for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons.
Gallaudet would be principal until 1830. His son would follow in his legacy, establishing Gallaudet University, which followed the ASD’s lead and taught students primarily in American Sign Language (derived from the methodical signs and Parisian sign language of the French Institute for the Deaf).