Thursday, March 18, 2010

Talking the sounds of silence

Talking the sounds of silence

In silence was spoken a thousand words.

Well, maybe not a thousand, but Julia McGoohan, 10, and 11-year-old Paige Lundberg — joined occasionally by Nicole August, 10 — were carrying on an animated conversation using just their hands, which were forming words in American Sign Language.

"It's really easy," Julia said.

Nicole explained that they had a deaf classmate at Silver Bay Elementary, here, whom they saw 40 minutes a day for mainstreaming into their fifth-grade class. The pupils picked up sign language just from that daily interaction, she said.

The three were among pupils from all over New Jersey — Galloway Township; Atlantic City; and the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf, West Trenton; Shore-area school districts such as Neptune, Jackson, Toms River, Lacey and Berkeley's Central Regional; and higher-education institutions such as Ocean County College, which has a deaf-interpreter program and The College of New Jersey, which has a deaf education-teaching program — who came together March 10 for Silver Bay's annual Deaf Awareness Day.

Now in its 13th year, the event is designed to promote a positive self-image of deaf and otherwise hearing-impaired people, as well as celebrate friends made through the day, said Debra Breece, teacher of the deaf at Silver Bay and the event's coordinator.

"Sign language is a good thing to know, to be able to talk to people who are hard of hearing," said Paige.

Though most of those kindergarten and first- through 12th-grade students who went to the event were deaf or otherwise hard of hearing, the day also had hearing attendees including Julia, Paige, and Nicole, who with their class would be recited and signed the Pledge of Allegiance.

In addition, Silver Bay class B-108 sang and signed "You've Got A Friend in Me," and the Little Theatre of the Deaf, the children's wing of West Hartford, Conn.-based National Theater of the Deaf, performed "Tree Wise." The play is the story of a girl with a deaf mother and deaf friend who makes friends with a hearing person. Through the help of a special tree, both girls learn more about deaf culture. In addition, the audience learns some simple signs.

"This is a chance for the deaf kids to socialize with other kids just like them," Breece said. "They often feel isolated, and this event alleviates some of that."