Jeannette Johnson wrote -
Our KidSigns program for ages 3-16 focuses on education and inclusion, practicing American Sign Language, highlighting new vocabulary, and providing social activities and interactions. We work with our local community partners including police and fire safety programs, 4H clubs with MSU Extension Services, schools such as Northview Public Schools. Our goal is to assist them in learning how to appropriately interact with different individuals and places, so that they can become confident and independent. Hearing people often do not know how to interact with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, so we work with both the venue staff and the Deaf and hard-of-hearing children to facilitate appropriate communication and interactions. This in turn improves access for not only the Deaf and hard-of-hearing children, but also for the communities at large.
The KidSigns program also hosts an annual summer week-long day camp called “Kids Kamp” (ages 3 to 12) and “TeenSigns Camp” (ages 13 to 16) where they go on field trips, enjoy arts and crafts, learn from public safety officials, employers and others, and work on improving their ASL skills (which will then improve their English skills). Through KidSigns’ bimonthly events and camps, the children also interact with their peers, and improve behavioral skills such as turn-taking and asking first before doing. They learn the basics of communicating with a hearing person who does not know ASL, such as indicating they are deaf, and indicating that they need a pencil and paper to communicate. Furthermore, they will have enriched opportunities to interact with Deaf and hard-of-hearing adults who have lived and shared their experiences. With the shared knowledge and insights, the children will go on to develop a stronger sense of self-esteem, empowerment and understanding of their identity.
KidSigns needs $25,000 to pay its coordinator, and to run the bimonthly events. Together, we can make a difference for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children in West Michigan!