Sign language instructor teaching language and compassion

By Ashley Wiebe
December 15, 2016 - 5:04pm Updated: November 8, 2017 - 11:17am

MEDICINE HAT, AB —For some children, living with a disability means they have trouble communicating with the people around them. It can be hard making new friends who see them as being different.

However, a local sign language instructor is teaching kids how to sign and that it’s okay to be different.

Jennifer Usher has been teaching sign language for more than 10 years.

“I love their enthusiasm and how they pick it up so quickly,” she said. “Sometimes the teachers will be struggling and the kids are getting it right away.”

Every week, Usher visits with preschoolers, many who aren’t living with a disability, and brings new songs and games focused on a specific theme.

“It gets them really engaged,” Usher said. “I find that songs and rhymes and games gets them really involved and they kind of don’t realize they’re practicing something when they’re doing something so fun.

Sara Falk, a mother of two, says her sons Lincoln and Owen have even started using sign language at home.

“At breakfast they’ll start with their ... 'Hello, how are you' song, in sign language and they remember it,” she said.

Usher says she’s taught children as young as 18 months old how to sign and continues teaching them until they’re old enough to start kindergarten.

She says it’s amazing to see how much they learn and how much they remember.

“They might have started as a toddler, just watching and observing, and then eventually, by the time they’re in kindergarten, they’re signing everything and showing all their parents everything,” Usher said.

But sign language isn’t the only thing kids are learning.

“We’re all a little bit different, there’s different ways to communicate and we can have fun learning how to do that,” Usher added.

The language has taught Falk’s two boys compassion and that it’s okay to be different.

 “Lincoln came home one afternoon and said, ‘Do you know why sign language is important?’ and I said ‘no’ and he said ‘We get to talk with someone else’s language!” she said.

“It’s okay if we speak different languages and we look a little different, that we can still be friends and still play together, still talk together, just in a different way.”

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