Hearing-impaired pupils get their say CENTRAL COUNTY -- Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

THE EASTER BUNNY KNOWS HOW TO SIGN

April 01, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Just being able to communicate directly with the Easter Bunny was a treat as sweet as a chocolate rabbit for a group of children at the Glen Burnie Mall.

When the pupils in the county's program for the hearing impaired at Shipley's Choice Elementary School approached the fuzzy bunny they were greeted by someone who spoke their language.

"Do you remember me from last year?" Matthew Harvey, 11, of Pasadena signed to the white rabbit.

"No," the bunny signed back. "But everyone knows my name."

The bunny appeared courtesy of the Glen Burnie Lion and Lioness clubs, which started the program last year.

Some of the nine children in the Shipley's Choice program live in a silent world. Others, wearing hearing aids, can hear a little. But because the disability usually keeps them from conversing with the hearing world without a middleman, programs such as the signing Easter Bunny offer a valuable emotional boost.

"It's just the fact that it's for them and it's the same as for other kids. They can have an uninterrupted conversation just like any other kid," said Kathy Nolet, a teacher for the hearing-impaired.

Matthew Harvey tried to swing a deal with the big rabbit: "I want Easter chocolate eggs and big bunny. And something for my brother -- a basketful of eggs or candy." In return, "I'm going to leave a carrot for the bunny and some vegetables, big vegetables," he explained.

The bunny and the children bantered and teased each other.

"I like rabbits," Andrea Evans, 11, of Odenton, told the Easter Bunny.

4 "You can't have me," the Easter Bunny responded.

The children needed little prodding to give their rabbit their wish lists. "A basketful of candy and a candy rabbit" was what Sher-Khan Anastase, 8, of Pasadena wanted.

Because a hearing impairment usually causes delays in learning language, the children visit dentists, markets and go shopping to match words with objects and gain self-confidence, Ms. Nolet said. They recently saw Linda Bove -- familiar to them from her signing on "Sesame Street" and in the National Theater of the Deaf -- perform in Washington.

The Lion and Lioness clubs started providing signing Santa Clauses and Easter Bunnies after Ms. Nolet spoke to the clubs about the children she teaches.

Yesterday, the children signed the song "Give Me a Sign" as it played on a tape machine. Passers-by in the mall paused, and a few parents of the children who were there got misty eyed.

"I think it's wonderful. There are not too many programs for hearing-impaired and deaf children," said Lisa Dial of Brooklyn .. Park, whose son Christopher, 8, lost much of his hearing from illness.

The bunny, Jennifer Pellitier, 46, took yesterday off from her job as a Department of Defense interpreter for the deaf to don the fuzzy outfit for very little money and mostly fun.

Before the children left, they and the bunny danced -- what else -- the bunny hop.

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