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#zerobarriersFreedom Friday

Freedom Friday: 5th grade class starts American Sign Language Club to better communicate with deaf student

By February 26, 2016No Comments

5th grade classmates





Rhemy Elsey is a fifth grader at Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria, Illinois. He’s been deaf since birth.

Though hearing implants allow him to hear, he mainly relies on American Sign Language to speak. He even has a translator that accompanies him throughout the school day.

But that wasn’t enough for the students at Mark Bills, who, in an effort to better communicate with Rhemy, formed an ASL Club, trading in their lunch and recess time once a week to learn sign language.

Rhemy told ABC News that he’s thrilled his classmates started the club because “they want to be like me.” He added that he understands why his peers would want to learn how he communicates because “sign language is cool.” Tammy Arvin, Rhemy’s translator, told ABC News she’s noticed that Rhemy has “gained confidence with his classmates and with expressing himself, and it’s made it easier for the other students to approach him.” 

“The other neat thing about it for a deaf child in a mainstream situation, it can be really hard for them from a social and emotional standpoint to have an interpreter following them around all day long. It can feel somewhat isolating,” Arvin, who has been a professional interpreter for three years, explained. “So it’s wonderful to see him have interactions with students that are one-on-one and that are more natural interactions that make him feel less isolated in the school setting.”

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