ASL Friends is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing programming to children with limited access to American Sign Language (ASL). The mission of ASL Friends is to advance early language acquisition for deaf children through quality educational programming in ASL. We have developed a pilot episode of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" with ASL actors added to the episode. The pilot episode of "Mister Rogers' ASL Friends" was extremely successful with children, parents, and educators. The success of "Mister Rogers' ASL Friends" has driven us toward our next goal, a full week of programming. We are currently fundraising to produce a full week of "Mister Rogers' ASL Friends" with ASL actors. Join us in preparing deaf children for success in school through fluency in their first language! Click here to learn more.
The idea of adding American Sign Language to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" has been on the drawing board since 1990. In this never before released video from 1993, Kim Nussbaum, founder of ASL Friends, had the surprise opportunity to interpret for her childhood hero Fred Rogers who gave the keynote address at the 90th Anniversary of The Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh. At this first meeting she shared her idea of adding ASL to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and he shared with her a contact person at his organization Family Communications, Inc. to send a letter. She had been wondering for months how to get her letter into the right hands. This was life before the internet!
Bill Isler, former President of Family Communications, Inc. shared a story of Kim’s that had particular impact on their decision to work with her. It was the story of a teenage deaf student who recently learned through his counselor that the cousin who visited his home regularly to do laundry was actually his older brother. This student who laughed easily and loved life, was outraged and distraught. His family, though well-intentioned, simply did not have the sign language skills to communicate with him beyond the skills of daily living such as eating, sleeping, and hygiene. These basic skills are concrete and often communicated through gestures or homemade signs. Abstract concepts like familial relationships require fluency in a real language such as American Sign Language. Fred Rogers named his production company Family Communications for his intent to communicate with children rather than entertain them. Kim’s point hit home.
Any funds solicited for ASL Friends, Inc. are not being solicited by, or on behalf of, Fred Rogers Productions.