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December 4, 2002

Hearing-impaired sisters teaching sign language to their classmates

From: Fremont News Messenger, OH - 04 Dec 2002

CLYDE -- With a trickle of her fingers, Kristy Miracle shows her classmates how to say "snow" in sign language.

A trickle, a bad face and a swipe of her hand shows the sixth-graders how to say, "I don't like snow."

A girl in the back asks how to say "I love snow." And with a smile, a trickle and a rub of her fist over her heart, Kristy obliges.

Her classmates give this 13-year-old their full attention when she stands in front of them at Green Springs Elementary School.

The same is true at South Main Elementary School, where Kristy's 6-year-old sister, Tara, shows her classmates words in sign language.

The Clyde girls have genetic hearing losses. Kristy is completely deaf. Tara has 50 percent loss, meaning she can hear when people speak loudly.

They are two of several students in the Clyde-Green Springs School District who have hearing impairments.

Class lessons

Kristy and Tara began teaching their classmates about a month ago and usually teach once a week.

With her mom as an interpreter, Kristy said she wanted to teach her friends so they will be able to talk to her.

The first step was teaching the ABCs.

"Once you learn the ABCs, they stay with you," Kim Miracle said. "We are finding once they get the ABCs down, they're good."

Kristy's school interpreter, Lisa Borden, helps her with the lessons. During a recent one, Kristy reviewed the words "good morning," "lunchtime," "sorry," "please," "excuse me," "good night," "good afternoon" and "thank you."

Kristy taught new words "snow" and "see you later" as her classmates practiced at their desks.

"They're very excited to be able to talk with Kristy using her language," teacher Jan Harris said. "It boosts everyone's self-esteem because they can talk without having to rely on other people all the time."

Tara taught her classmates the alphabet and her interpreter, Melissa Rosenberger, teaches phrases and classroom words like "line up."

"She has such a positive attitude. She beams with enthusiasm when they do it," Tara's teacher, Randy Stockmaster, said. "She's included, not excluded."

Rosenberger said the students also have a positive attitude.

"They're pretty enthusiastic about it," she said. "They don't look at it like it's a disability."

And another upside to knowing sign language?

The kids can talk to each other even when they're told to be quiet.

"Sometimes you'll see them use it among themselves," Stockmaster said. "They think they're being clever."


Teaching their classmates sign language is one step of many that Kristy and Tara's parents, Terry and Kim, would like to see accomplished in the Clyde-Green Springs School District.

Another goal, to have sign language taught in the high school, is in the preliminary stages.

Currently, Brent Borden teaches students in a 10-week session before school at Clyde High School. The class is for credit and a grade and was first held last year.

"He teaches you like a deaf person," Kim Miracle said, explaining that sign language includes facial expressions. "It's hard to talk with your hands and concentrate on what you are doing with your face."

Ten students finished the class last year. By the end of the session, students had a foundation in the alphabet, some words and phrases and some sentences. Students were expected to sign a story and hold a conversation.

"It sounded like they had a good sign-up again this year," Kim Miracle said.

Terry Miracle added: "The schools have really come a long way. And there are still some things we're going to try to do."

In the future, the Miracles would like to see sign language offered as a language class during the regular school day.

Some colleges accept sign language for the foreign language requirement.

"We wish all of them would start," Terry Miracle said.

The possibility of a class offered during the school day hinges on room availability, for one thing. Eventually, the Miracles would like to present the idea to the school board.

"It's going to take some time and work," Terry Miracle said.

A class for adults is offered 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays at the high school.


The Miracles found out that Kristy was deaf when she was only two weeks old. Hearing disabilities are usually not found until years later.

"The phone, the dog, the doorbell, nothing would wake her up," Kim Miracle said.

Terry Miracle noticed Kristy might have a hearing problem when cheering at a football party didn't affect her.

Kristy had her first hearing aid when she was four months old and started speech therapy when she was eight months old.

She went to a private school until second grade. Although she's been held back before, Kristy does well in her classes. She was on the recent nine-week honor roll. Her favorite class is math.

"Our goal all along was to mainstream them," Terry Miracle said. "In 13 years, we've come a long way."

People affiliated with hearing impairments highly recommended that the Miracles move 13 years ago because of the small amount of opportunities available in this area.

The girls' rare condition is genetic and usually affects girls. The girls' brother does not have hearing impairments and the girls' children may not have impairments.

There is a procedure Kristy could have undergone to try to improve her hearing, but the Miracles opted not to have it done.

"There were a lot of risk factors we weren't willing to take," Terry Miracle said.

Tara has 50 percent hearing loss. She uses hearing aids and an FM system in class. Her teacher wears a small microphone that transmits his words directly to Tara's ear.

Both girls can read lips and sign. Tara can talk.

Both girls also have interpreters who attend class with them.

"They are excellent with the girls," Kim Miracle said. "They go with them everywhere so they girls miss nothing."

And at least a dozen teachers in the district know sign language.

"Every teacher we've gotten has jumped on board," Terry Miracle said.

The girls also meet with speech therapist Cheryl Connelly.

During the summer Connelly and Lisa Borden took Kristy out two times a week to department and grocery stores and the bank.

Copyright © 2002 The News-Messenger. All rights reserved.