My 4th grader Cracker was one of the 10 finalists in his school spelling bee, so he got to go on to the district spelling bee. He is deaf like us and so his interpreter was there to relay the spelling word to him. Of course we all wanted Cracker to succeed on his own merits and not have it seem like he cheated, or had help, or whatever. He can do it just like anyone else can.
There are many words that have similar signs, or a single sign is used by multiple words. (For example: Soup, Broth, Stew share a common sign. There are MANY such instances where you'd have to spell the word to get precisely *that* word.)
So, the interpreter (K) stood by the moderator who gave each contestant their spelling words and just before giving the word to my little Cracker, K looked at the list and would say no or yes to whether that word had a sign that could be signed without spelling the word itself. Sometimes multiple words would have to be skipped before there was a word that could be signed without any clarifying fingerspelling needed.
All went well and my smart little cookie was among the last 5 students left standing. (We're proud of him!! He did great!!) At the conclusion of the spelling bee, a man from the audience came up to K and asked her if she was skipping over words that didn't have signs, impressing us with his cultural awareness of American Sign Language. But then he continued by saying he had a brother in law that was a deaf-mute.
K replied by saying that clearly Cracker was <span style="font-style:italic;">not</span> mute as he spoke for himself. This gentleman acknowledged that Cracker spoke for himself then repeated that his brother in law was a deaf-mute.
Sigh. Shoulda stopped while he was ahead with his cultural awareness, instead of continuing on with a term that is SO out of use in today's society.
Really, have you ever met a mute person?? Actually, I have, but this person was not a deaf person! You do realize the ear and the vocal cords are NOT the same organ? Deaf people *do* have voices, it just may sound different from what you're used to but that does not mean they're mute!