Fifth Graders Use Recess to Learn Sign Language for Deaf Classmate

Rhemy Elsey was born deaf, and though he has hearing aids, the fifth grader primarily uses American Sign language (ASL) and an interpreter to communicate with others. Rhemy’s classmates at Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria, Illinois, wanted to figure out a way to include him in more of their conversations, so they came up with a plan: Learn ASL during recess.

The whole class recites the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in ASL, but about a dozen students took things a step further to form the school’s ASL club, which meets every Wednesday during recess.

“I wanted to be able to talk to Rhemy and I wanted to be able to communicate with him,” classmate Dezyrae Clarke, founder of the club, told local news station WMBD. With a little help from Rhemy and his interpreter, Tammy Arvin, the children are learning more each week, and Rhemy has even given some classmates their own unique sign, or nickname.

“It’s like they want to be like me,” Rhemy told WMBD reporter Alyssa Paldo, in a story published on Central Illinois Proud. “It makes me feel happy.”

Arvin says she’s seen a notable improvement in Rhemy’s ability to talk to his friends.

“It’s stories like Rhemy’s that makes Hearing Health Foundation hopeful that the stigma of having a hearing loss is disappearing,” a spokesperson for the organization told The Mighty. “It’s refreshing to hear these stories about children taking the initiative to learn how to best communicate with their hard of hearing peers – it provides hope for a more inclusive future for all people.”

Check out my story on these awesome 5th graders that are learning sign language–all so that they can communicate with a friend and classmate. I think these children stand to teach us an amazing lesson that we can all take something away from–about kindness and accepting others 🙂 Happy Friday!

Posted by Alyssa Paldo on Friday, February 19, 2016

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