Signaling the start of Christmas

Published 8:31 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015

Everyone deserves to enjoy all the joy of Christmas, but there are certain groups who sometimes get shut out of that.

One of those groups is deaf children, who — without intervention created especially for them — will never be able to hear Christmas carols or talk to Santa in their own language.

That’s where the actions of a group of people and organizations including Norfolk’s MacArthur Center mall, educators who teach deaf children and American Sign Language, and the ASL Club at Lakeland High School come into play.

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This year, for the third year, MacArthur Center organized a “Signing Santa” event, where deaf and hard of hearing children can give Santa their wish list in American Sign Language and get his response back, also in American Sign Language. They also get to see Christmas carols performed by the Lakeland High School club.

In between, they enjoy the sensory pleasures that all children can enjoy equally, including playing in the (artificial) snow, getting their face painted and eating cookies.

Anita Fisher’s class at Lakeland puts in a lot of work to make sure they know the signs for the Christmas carols they perform. But it’s all for a good cause.

“Too many times we forget about people with disabilities, and we do things for those who are hearing,” she said.

That’s especially true during the holidays, when so much Christmas cheer is spread by tinkling bells, carols, Santa’s “Ho, Ho, Ho,” the sounds of family greeting each other and readings of the Nativity story and “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Many thanks from the entire community go to everyone who helps plan and participate in this event, especially Suffolk’s own Anita Fisher and her ASL students. You all made the holidays for a group of very deserving children.