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Signs of the Season: Deaf-Ed students visit ASL-fluent Santa at Bassett Place

Signing Santa 2018   Signing Santa 2018

Signing Santa 2018   Signing Santa 2018

Signing Santa 2018   Signing Santa 2018

(HILLSIDE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL — Dec. 19, 2018) -- Santa’s visit to Bassett Place Tuesday gave dozens of Hillside Elementary deaf-education students a sure sign that the jolly old man might fulfill their wish list this Christmas.

The elementary students lined up to meet this special Santa who understood them in their language. He looked over their wish lists as each signed Barbie dolls, cars, PS4s, dinosaurs and other popular toys. 

He signed back acknowledging their wish, then posed for a picture signing ‘I love you.’ 

“This is special for me,” said the hearing Santa fluent in American Sign Language, or ASL. “My older son is deaf, so we know the families. I’m happy to do this for the kids.” 

The visit to Santa left a permanent grin on the face of first grader Savanna Carrillo. 

“I was happy,” she said through an ASL interpreter, explaining she requested a doll. 

Another student asked for a fish … “a live one,” he signed to his teacher.  Meanwhile, Jesus Jasso signed and spoke to Santa asking for a Lego BB-8. 

“I like to sign. I can only talk a little,” he said, using both his voice and signs. 

Paraprofessional Sylvia Aguirre stood among the kinder and first-grade students, asking them what they asked of Santa. 

“I love this. It’s amazing for our children,” she said. “It’s makes me happy to see them so happy.”

The event continued with a special performance by the Hillside Singing Signing Choir. The hearing students sang and signed traditional holiday selections before an audience of parents and their hearing impaired peers.

The performance ended with an emotional rendition of “Silent Night” where the students’ music and voices abruptly stopped mid song but continued signing to give the hearing audience a glimpse into the world of the deaf students. 

“We do this at the end of ‘Silent Night’ to show how they experience it,” said choir teacher Diedre Minton. “It fosters communication between our hearing and non-hearing students so they sign to each other and our hearing students have a better understanding of their disability.”

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photos by Leonel Monroy