Santa Using Sign Language Delights Children
Ron Swartz, 52, of Clarkston, Michigan, is putting the excitement back into visiting Santa Claus for hearing-impaired and deaf children. Swartz, himself deaf, has been taking the children’s Christmas wishes for 10 years at Silent Call Communications in Waterford, MI, which is about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.
Swartz remembers his own difficult childhood visits to Santa, and began dressing up as Santa so that other children wouldn’t have the same disappointing experiences he’d had. Translating his father’s sign language, 16-year-old Warren Swartz said: “He’d just go up to them and wouldn’t be able to understand them…He was excited to see Santa, but he couldn’t tell them what he wanted.”
“I’ve seen a lot of deaf kids going into malls and stuff to see a Santa, but then they couldn’t talk to Santa,” said George Elwell, President of Silent Call. He told the Detroit Free Press, “This way the kids can come in, they sign to Santa, they tell them their wishes, he signs back to them.” Silent Call produces alert and alarm systems for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
Two of Santa’s recent visitors were Darien Davis, 10, of Wixom, MI and his sister Rebecca, 8. It was the first time that the two deaf children had ever seen a deaf Santa. Looking delighted, Darien signed that he wanted a train, while Rebecca ambitiously requested a life-sized toy pony. The children’s grandmother, Carol Wills, said that usually Darien and Rebecca visit mall Santas with their other siblings, but it’s frustrating because they can’t tell Santa what they want. Wills said: “This is the first time I’ve ever seen them go up and talk” through signing.
Some of the children who visit Swartz can hear but have deaf parents. Now, they will no longer have to wonder what their children want for the Christmas holiday.
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Photo credit: Eric Seals / Detroit Free Press
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