Learn sign­ing to help oth­ers con­nect

Stratford Press - - News - By ILONA HANNE

A Strat­ford mother says she is fed up with feel­ing iso­lated and left out when it comes to her sons’ school­ing.

Chanelle and her hus­band Chris are both deaf, but their sons, Noah (9), Lance (7) and Josh (3) aren’t.

“Be­ing a par­ent is a roller coaster of ups and downs for any­one, but be­ing a deaf par­ent comes with spe­cific is­sues as well.”

Chris works as a truck driver while Chanelle is a stay-at-home par­ent to their sons.

“Chris has no prob­lems with his work team. They all un­der­stand that him be­ing deaf doesn’t stop him do­ing a good job. That’s great for him, but be­ing deaf can be quite dif­fi­cult for me as the stay-at-home par­ent.”

One thing Chanelle says is re­ally im­por­tant to her, is that she doesn’t want to have to rely on their sons to have to trans­late what the teach­ers or other adults are try­ing to tell her.

While the boys’ school and pre-school are great at com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a va­ri­ety of ways to en­sure Chanelle and Josh are kept in­formed gen­er­ally, Chanelle says she strug­gles with things that wouldn’t be an is­sue for a hear­ing par­ent.

“In the school cor­ri­dor, when we are wait­ing for the chil­dren to come out of class, the other par­ents are talk­ing to each other, but I can’t join in as they don’t know any sign. It makes me feel left out.”

Chanelle says while she feels like a spec­ta­tor rather than a par­tic­i­pant at school pick up, when it comes to ac­tu­ally be­ing a spec­ta­tor at a school assem­bly or awards pre­sen­ta­tion, she is again left feel­ing iso­lated.

“If I can’t get seats closer to the stage so I can lip-read, I need to have an in­ter­preter, but this is very dif­fi­cult in Taranaki. Many deaf par­ents in Taranaki are frus­trated as we have to find an avail­able in­ter­preter in Hamil­ton or Palmer­ston North to come, so they need plenty of no­tice to come to a meet­ing or an event on at the school.”

Chanelle says there is a real need for sign lan­guage in­ter­preters in Taranaki, but she would be happy if more peo­ple sim­ply learned a bit of sign lan­guage so she could get more in­volved with school and kindy events and trips.

“It would be nice to be able to talk to the other par­ents, and also for my sons to see New Zealand Sign Lan­guage used in the class­room as well, so it isn’t just some­thing they use at home.”

De­spite these frus­tra­tions, Chanelle says be­ing a deaf par­ent has many re­wards too.

“There is al­ways a sil­ver lin­ing in any sit­u­a­tion and for us I think it is be­ing able to silently com­mu­ni­cate with our sons across a room. We are also both good at reading their body lan­guage and fa­cial ex­pres­sions.”

The boys, says Chanelle, love be­ing able to sign ‘I love you’ to their par­ents.

“I also think our boys see how strong we are in liv­ing in a world which is hear­ing-fo­cused, when we are deaf, and not let­ting us beat us. That gives them a good ex­am­ple of not giv­ing up.”

Deaf par­ents put them­selves out there ev­ery day to try to give their chil­dren the best op­por­tu­ni­ties in the hear­ing com­mu­nity, says Chanelle.

“We don’t let any­thing stop us.”

The gap be­tween hear­ing and deaf is one thing Chanelle isn’t go­ing to let stop her, and she is tak­ing steps to change things her­self.

“I have asked the school if I can set up a work­shop to teach sign next year to some par­ents. Deaf par­ents can sign, so there is no rea­son hear­ing par­ents can’t as well.”

She is plan­ning to set up a cof­fee group once a month with other school par­ents in the hope that they will learn some sign and help Chanelle feel less iso­lated in the fu­ture.

■ Chal­lenge ac­cepted! Editor Ilona Hanne will learn sign with Chanelle next year. Reg­is­ter your in­ter­est by tex­ting Chanelle on 027 369 2483.

Learn­ing sign is just like learn­ing your A B Cs says Chanelle. Here Noah signs A, Lance signs B, Josh signs C and Chanelle signs D.

Noah, Lance, Chanelle and Josh demon­strate the sign for “I Love You”

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