Annual holiday party shares season’s greetings with Deaf Community

On Dec. 15, Deaf children in the Virginia Beach community gather in the Schola for an annual winter party.
This celebration started 30 years ago by Carvalho Sharron, a teacher for the Deaf program when it was at Bayside High School, whom is now retired.
“When she retired I took the responsibility for the Winter Program,” said American Sign Language (ASL) teacher Lynn Steinberg.
As a teacher for the Deaf that is now at Ocean Lakes, Steinberg organizes the event and makes sure her students get to partake in the festivities.
“I had the opportunity to involve ASL three classes to create games to interact with the Deaf kids,” said Steinberg. “We call that real life immersion.”
The seasoned ASL students use what they learned over the past years to communicate with the Deaf and hard of hearing children; which includes explaining games, signing The Night Before Christmas (signed by Jo Bauman), and just simply saying ‘Merry Christmas.’
Steinberg says that this is a great experience for the students to be introduced to the Deaf Community and to start using their signing skills outside of the classroom.
The festivities also include a Deaf Santa Claus, which has been played by former student Alex Heath for the last few years. The kids to sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. This is special because most of the Santas in the local malls that many kids go to see do not know ASL, so children that are deaf do not get to talk to Santa.
“The Deaf kids can have exposure to a deaf Santa and communicate directly with Santa Claus,” said Steinberg.
According to Steinberg, there was only one Deaf Santa available at MacArthur Mall for two hours on a day in the middle of November.
This is an example of “hearing privilege”, which is a topic covered in the third level ASL course. Hearing children can go to almost any mall to sit on Santa’s lap to tell them all of their holiday wishes; whereas Deaf children only get a Santa for two hours at one mall location on one single day in November.
“The goal [of the winter program] is to make memories for these kids,” said Steinberg.
Leading up to the winter party, Steinberg’s students design games for the children to play at the event.
“I’m really excited to interact with the little Deaf kids,” said senior and third year ASL student Rebekah Vander Werf.
Steinberg invites former students and adult role models in the Deaf Community to help spread holiday spirit.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Steinberg. “They can meet other Deaf kids and see Deaf role models, since 90 percent of these Deaf children come from hearing families.”