In 1986, Dr. Judy Shepard-Kegl, a sign language linguist trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was invited by the Ministry of Education to furnish consulting services at the Deaf schools established by the Nicaraguan government in Barrios San Judas and Villa Libertad in Managua. In the course of her services, Dr. Shepard-Kegl began an intensive documentation and analysis of the emergence of a new sign language in Nicaragua.
In 1995, our focus changed from pure scientific research to intervention. Assisted by linguists from the United States, Canada and Great Britain, Dr. Shepard-Kegl and her husband James set up Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects (NSLP) as a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the purpose of training Deaf Nicaraguans to teach Nicaraguan Sign Language to Deaf children throughout Nicaragua. That same year, NSLP collaborated with the Nicaraguan National Association of the Deaf (ANSNIC), based in Managua, and with the Bluefields Chapter of Los Pipitos to operate a series of sign language immersion clinics in Bluefields. Over the next decade, this project evolved into a full time school which we affectionately called La Escuelta de Bluefields, or the Little School of Bluefields. In time, full control of the school was assumed by the Ministry of Education (MINED). Today, NSLP has no direct involvement with the Bluefields Deaf school, renamed Escuela Ariel Hodgeson by the Ministry.
In 1999, at the recommendation of NSLP, the Condega chapter of Los Pipitos secured funding and set up a temporary school for Deaf children in that community. From 1999 through 2001, NSLP sent Deaf teachers for several months each year to Condega, while training two young Deaf adults from Condega to take over as school teachers there. Later, these two individuals were employed as teachers both in Condega and Bluefields. Today, they are assigned to Escuela Hermano Roberto Clark, the government run special education primary school in Condega, with their salaries paid by NSLP. (Dormitory housing for some students is funded by the generous citizens of Condega's sister city Bend, Oregon, USA.)
From 1997 to 2003, NSLP provided intensive training in Bluefields (and in Maine) to a Deaf adolescent from Bilwi so that as an adult she would be able to teach sign language to Deaf children in her community. This Deaf woman is now employed as a teacher at the Sister Maureen Courtney Special Education School, operated by the St. Agnes Convent in Bilwi.
From 2006 to 2010, NSLP conducted a series of sign language clinics in seven communities on the Island of Ometepe, using NSLP trained Deaf Nicaraguans as langauge role models. These clinics did not require a traditional classroom setting, but were often conducted outside the modest homes of host families. This project was operated under the auspices of the Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Islands Association. (Bainbridge is located in the State of Washington, USA.)
In more recent years, our primary focus has been on development of a Nicaraguan Sign Language Manual to be used as a resource for educators, administrators, interpreters, health care providers and Deaf people and their families. This manual provides detailed analysis of the grammar and syntax of Nicaraguan Sign Language, along with a glossary of signs with Spanish and English glosses.