Kids get a taste of sign language

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 3, 2002

Sign language has been a fascination for Anissa Lukas since her days watching Sesame Street. Now she hopes to inspire that fascination in a new generation.

Until Aug. 30, Lukas will be teaching American Sign Language every Friday to school age children at the Albert Lea Community Child Care Center.

&uot;Signing is so beautiful and expressive,&uot; said Lukas. &uot;It’s even fun to watch.&uot;

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Lukas was certified as

an independent consultant for Talking Hands, Inc. at the end of May. Talking Hands is a program founded three years ago by Lillian Hubler after her son stopped talking because of a difficult divorce. Hubler’s son started communicating again as he learned sign language and she began teaching it to other parents and children. The program has expanded from there. Lukas is mostly self-taught in sign language and is continually learning new signs. Lukas also took a signing class in college.

At the ALCCCC about 50 students ranging from those who just completed kindergarten to those who have finished fifth grade are involved in the program. By the end of August the children will have a vocabulary of 145-150 words, learned mostly through song, play, and watching videos. The alphabet, colors, numbers, animals, and some working classroom signs are among topics covered.

&uot;One of the first signs I taught them was how to ask to go to the bathroom,&uot; Lukas laughed.

Lukas tailors her lessons for each age group; for example, the younger children learn to sign to 20 and the older group can sign to 1,000,000.

Rather than teach straight American Sign Language, which can be very confusing to young children because it skips many of the &uot;in-between&uot; words, Lukas is teaching &uot;Pidgin&uot; sign language at ALCCCC. &uot;Pidgin&uot; sign language skips fewer words than ASL and follows spoken language sentence structure more closely.

So far kids at the child care center seem to be enjoying each lesson.

&uot;The kids really seem eager to learn more each week,&uot; said ALCCCC Director Kristin Houg.

Sign language might be new to the ALCCCC this summer, but continuing education isn’t. The center regularly hosts public programs like D.A.R.E. officers and anti-smoking programs in addition to their frequent field trips, and participating in tee ball games and swimming lessons.

&uot;Anytime we can give the kids an opportunity to learn more we like to do it,&uot; said Houg.

The ALCCCC is also considering adding another program taught by Lukas for infants and parents if this summer session is successful. Lukas has materials to teach a variety of courses from those just for children to ones involving parents also. She hopes to make some of the classes available through Albert Lea Community Education soon, and is working with other area daycares trying to set up other sessions.

For Lukas, who once wanted to be a teacher of the deaf, this is her way of fulfilling a dream.

&uot;Signing is so much fun,&uot; said Lukas. &uot;Just watching the looks on their faces, you can see the sense of accomplishment the kids get for it.&uot;