NORTH LEWISBURG – “He went from feeling isolated to having everyone want to be part of his life,” Douglas Jackson said of his son, Carson.
Carson Jackson is a Triad first grader who is deaf. He struggled for years, going from school to school, Douglas said. But a new club at Triad Elementary, started by Carson’s interpreter, has made a huge difference in his happiness.
Makenzie Miller, Carson’s sign language interpreter, thought Carson would be helped if more people communicated with him at school. She started the American Sign Language Club at the elementary in September, providing sign language instruction to teachers, parents and students who were interested.
“I could interpret every conversation the student has, and I have in the past, but we all thought it would be so awesome if students and teachers were able to carry on a basic conversation with him,” she said. “The club really helps the kids not only be able to have a conversation with their peer, which is the number one goal, but it also really helps the kids with fine motor skills. It also gives them access to a different language, and they are at the perfect age to learn it.”
Approximately 70 kids attend the club sessions every other week, Miller said. Several teachers volunteer to help, and 10 to 15 parents help during the sessions. Approximately 20 teachers attend teacher sessions.
The largest number of students in the club come from the first grade, Principal Lee Claypool said, because they want to be able to interact with Carson.
Though Carson is the only deaf student in the school, two others are hard of hearing and can benefit from the club, Miller said.
“He used to fight us to come to school,” Douglas said. “Now he wakes up, ready to go.”
Carson’s mother, Tamara, agreed: “His grades skyrocketed. It’s been amazing. It opened a whole new world for him.”
Carson, shy and speaking through Miller’s interpretation, said he enjoys the club and finds it fun and helpful. He said he’s learning new signs with his peers.
On Wednesday, the group of students were learning holiday-themed signs, through Christmas songs and artwork they created alongside the signing.
“It’s great to expose kids to different ways to communicate, and this brings more diversity into the school,” said parent Angie Thomas. Her kindergarten-age daughter, Savannah, said she enjoyed being part of the club and said she found it fun and helpful.
Fourth graders Madison and Dylan Wells know Carson through both the school and Cub Scouts.
“I enjoy it, and we wanted to be able to talk to Carson,” Madison said.
Fourth grader Luke Ford decided to take part in the club after running into Carson at school.
“I was in the hallway trying to talk to him, and he turned his head like he had no idea what I said,” Luke said. “I saw this club, so I wanted to get involved to talk to him.”
Douglas said he’s happy to see his son enjoying school and his community.
“It finally feels like he’s at home,” he said.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.