We adopted our son Ben as an infant. Initial reports indicated that he had failed his hearing screens, so upon placement, getting his hearing evaluated was on our to-do list. He had been in cradle care with an experienced foster-mother, who had assured us that he could hear just fine, but we knew the importance of ensuring all was well.
It didn’t take us long in a house with three older children and two dogs for us to notice that Ben didn’t startle ever. We got a referral to our family Ear Nose and Throat doctor, who confirmed our fears, Ben has significant hearing impairment.
Several hearing aids and numerous ear surgeries later, hearing impairment has become normal to us, as has assisting Ben’s communication with American Sign Language (ASL). Even with optimal correction, there are certain language sounds that Ben has never, and likely will never hear. His ability to communicate verbally is always going to be limited. ASL has filled in many communication gaps for us over the years, and has been an enormous blessing in minimizing the many communication challenges that can occur daily.
This morning as my husband and I drank our coffee together on the couch, we saw on the news that in Denver, Colorado, there is a sign language Santa.
I was ecstatic for the children who, possibly for the first time ever, were able to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him their Christmas lists in their own language, and have him communicate right back. Having a front row seat to my son’s communication challenges, and seeing how at ease he is with those who can use ASL as an additional tool, seeing others visit Santa Claus who can overcome that language barrier and communicate with them with ease brought tears to my eyes. I truly wish I could hop on a plane and fly Ben out to see this Santa Claus. What a gift and a blessing this is to the children who are able to see him!
I love the new trend for Santa to appeal to many demographics, even a hipster Santa, but the special needs community is especially well served when Santa takes our needs into consideration. Our local mall has special needs hours for Santa, and it’s a godsend. Our older son, Alex is well into double digits, but that doesn’t stop him from his adoration of Santa. Getting to see Santa at our local mall’s special needs hours has reduced difficult wait times, and given Alex a treasured visit that he otherwise might have missed because of his sensory overload when in large groups of people.
I, for one, as a parent of two children with special needs, am delighted to see this new trend of Santa Claus doing more to be inclusive of my children and others like them. Kudos to sign language Santa, and the families blessed by his visit!