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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 61, 2015
6 The following year Jessie returned to this kindy class where a new group of children joined her. Now she was in the powerful position of already knowing and using some Auslan, while the new children were yet to learn this second language. Sonya's enthusiasm and interest in Auslan grew and she began to attend advanced evening classes where she developed a conversational level of Auslan. The class instructor was James Kerwin who is deaf, a qualified teacher and an enthusiastic supporter of those willing to learn Auslan. He began to visit Jessie at kindy to improve her signing, and began to work with her family to further develop their Auslan skills. Having a deaf teacher in the kindy room built on every child's awareness of deaf culture and supported the centre's inclusivity. By now, all the kindy groups were having regular Auslan lessons each week, and using the signs during the day. Many of the signs in Auslan are iconic, in other words, they look like the sign's meaning in some way. For example, the sign for 'dog' is to pat your hip, as if you are calling for a dog to come over, and the sign for 'house' is to trace the shape of the roof and walls with your hands. This helped the children to quickly learn many signs, but was confusing for some families. As the kindy children began to use these signs at home we began to get many questions about whether they were the correct signs, or were the children just making them up. The kindy offered some weekend family sessions to allow the extended families to develop some understanding of Auslan and some afternoon sessions for staff in the rest of the school. Several years down the track, with Jessie now attending school, and with greatly improved verbal skills, Auslan is still embedded in our kindy program. There are several reasons for this. The educators recognise and value the benefits of the children learning a second language, exposure to Auslan raises awareness amongst the children of diversity, and children who find communication challenging are supported by learning some Auslan, as was the case recently for a child with Autism. But, the overwhelming reason for our continued use of Auslan in our program is attributable to the positive responses from both the children and their families. During the past few years the educators, the children and families have been on a learning journey together, and we feel there is great value in this. We are all at a different place in our skills, confidence and abilities at using Auslan, but we are all respectful of the willingness to try and the challenges involved in learning something new. Children's observations: We are doing signing. We sign because some people are deaf. Deaf means your voice is off and you can't hear. We might see a deaf person. I like signing. Lexie 4.3yrs We do signing because if I see a deaf person down the road or make a friend with a deaf person then I could talk with my hands. They can talk a little bit. If you see a deaf person you could say "How are you?" Sometimes I use it with Scarlett or Mummy. Lucy 4.10yrs Useful Resources: • DVD-'A Time to Sign' Auslan for Beginners. Available from James Kerwin-web page "Deaf Friendly" www.deaffriendly.com.au • DVD-'Something to Sign About' songs for children in Auslan. Available from James Kerwin-web page "Deaf Friendly" www.deaffriendly.com.au • Auslan words-iPad app Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind chidren • Sign Planet www.signplanet.net • Youtube-"The Very Cranky Bear" Auslan • Youtube-"Feathers for Phoebe" Auslan • Youtube clips-Ryan Moore Nursery Rhymes • Auslan Sign Bank www.auslan.org.au • iPad app-Hairy Maclary signed in Auslan • SCOPE Victoria (Key word sign) • PDF Education Supplies and Resources for Early Childhood have signs in Auslan fingerspell http://www.pdfeducationsupplies.com.au/
Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015