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THE WORD FOR "pretty" in sign language is formed by placing the right hand, fingers together, in front of the chin with the palm facing the person. Then the fingers are opened and the face is circled counterclockwise, ending in the original position.

That sign will be flashing incessantly Wednesday at Salon Salon on Allen Street when 20 students from St. Mary's School for the Deaf begin preparations for their prom that evening at the Marine Midland Center's 38th Floor. Salon owner Connie Stahlman and hair stylist Lisa Augugliaro will be elbows-deep in shampoo suds and curling irons. They will be fixing hair as well as doing makeup and nails for students.

The prom-goers and hair stylists -- both of whom learned sign language because they have deaf sisters -- got together before the big day so they could consult on such heady matters as French braids, twists and updos.

Amy Heider, 18, and Denise Augugliaro, 17, Lisa's sister, are among the excited group. Communicating through an interpreter, the girls said they are pleased to go to a salon where they are understood.

"This is a good idea," said Amy, "because when I go somewhere else I have a hard time communicating because they don't know what I want. This is a lot easier for me."

Miss Stahlman said she used to travel to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf every year when her sister was a student there to get her and her friends ready for their prom.

"Now that she's graduated, I miss being around the girls. I volunteered to do this because it's really fun to get someone ready for a prom. But I also know from watching my sister how difficult it is for a deaf person to get what she wants. The stylist cuts too much off or doesn't cut it the right way. And even if she doesn't like it, my sister can't tell them because they wouldn't understand," Miss Stahlman said.

Each student filled out a card detailing what she would like done.

"We sat each one done individually in front of a mirror to show her what would be the most flattering," Miss Stahlman said. "Generally, the girls are rather conservative and they haven't had much experience wearing their hair a lot of different ways. But updos are nice for proms, so I think we'll be doing French braids, French twists, maybe seaming them with pearls or putting flowers in their hair. Or we'll follow their own ideas."

To make the day even more festive, the Quaker Bonnet is sending over a tray of pastries for the girls to snack on while they are being made over. And F.H. Loeffler Co. and Goldwell are donating sample products.

Miss Stahlman said the shop, which she opened last month, has a TTY, a telecommunications device that enables a hearing-impaired person who also has a TTY to make appointments.

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