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Party a sign of the holidays

April in GlenwoodApril E. Clark

Like anyone blessed with the ability to hear, Cathy Wells knows firsthand how sweet the sounds of the holidays can be.As a teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing for Glenwood Springs Elementary School/Mt. BOCES, Wells has made it a point to share the spirit of the holidays with her students no matter their hearing abilities. Tuesday she and her colleagues hosted a Christmas party for the school’s six deaf and hard-of-hearing students – some sign language-dependent – and 15 additional Roaring Fork Valley families of children with hearing loss.This was like no other party I had known of before, and I soon found out Wells is not a run-of-the-mill educator. An advocate of children with hearing disabilities, she previously taught in Honduras and at a school for the deaf in London before returning to the valley. In the United Kingdom, she learned the difference in health care compared to the United States, and how that affects children and adults with hearing impairments.”It’s very different in England because they have free national health care,” she said. “They don’t have funding issues like we do here in terms of providing people with hearing aids, ear mold, and hearing operations.”Although there are many unresolved health care issues in America, Wells was quick to note that Colorado has one of the best rates in the country for early identification of hearing disabilities in babies. “This all leads to helping children with language and social development,” she said.Locally, Wells and Heather Abraham of the Colorado Home Intervention Program work together to assist families of deaf or hard-of-hearing children. Abraham helps facilitate the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Connection role model program, which introduces deaf adults to families and young children to answer their questions about hearing loss or deafness. Several of the role models attended the Christmas party, in its second year, to share their life experiences with attendees. One adult even signed the children’s story “Winter Rabbit” by Patrick Yee while Abraham provided voicing in English and Wells recited the tale in Spanish, a nice touch considering many of the families are also Spanish-speaking.On the surface, Tuesday’s gathering in the Glenwood Springs Elementary School cafeteria appeared to be a Christmas party with storytelling, pizza, and games. Further examination would show that it was a reminder for deaf or hard-of-hearing children and their families that life is a gift, even if the Christmas carols and the holiday tales are signedApart from irreverent hand gestures, April E. Clark knows how to say “I love you” in sign language. Reach her at aclark@postindependent.com


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