‘CommuniCate – The Key to Our Family’s Journey’

CommuniCate - Serena's Story

Michelle Nathan shares her story of why she wanted her family to learn Auslan and how Deaf Children Australia’s CommuniCate kit has made the process of learning another language a lot easier.

Michelle said, “CommuniCate resources are really helping our family learn Auslan together. I have always wanted our family to sign well since my daughter Serena was one year old and we found out she has a hearing loss, as well as cerebral palsy. When she was almost two, Serena had a hearing aid fitted but still didn’t respond to noises. We realised Serena is profoundly deaf in both ears. When she was three, Serena was fitted with a cochlear implant. Now at the age of seven, she doesn’t like her implant and still often refuses to wear it but she knows it helps her.

My DCA family support worker Emma organised for us to receive one of the CommuniCate kits. Serena and her twin sister Kiya enjoy playing with it and they show everyone who comes. We use the flash cards as a memory game and we make up our own games with the different scenes. I ask Serena to spell out words too. Serena has always been great at Auslan and Kiya used to sign a lot with Serena when they went to the deaf pre-school together. Since we moved to Melbourne and they started at different schools, Kiya hasn’t been so interested in signing. It was frustrating for Serena as Kiya lost a lot of her signs while Serena was getting better and better. Serena was signing slowly to Kiya and Kiya was speaking to Serena in reply. Kiya would sometimes yell at Serena when she wanted her attention. Auslan is Serena’s first language so I think it’s really important for all of us to use Auslan with her. When we started using CommuniCate, Kiya got more involved and began using more signs again.

Our extended family is wonderful in wanting to learn Auslan and the kit has really helped. They have been coming to our house every Sunday for us to practice signing. I have told them that I want them to make an effort to communicate with Serena directly rather than relying on me to interpret all the time. It’s fantastic to see Serena teaching the other children. She does the signs and then they will repeat them. Even Serena and Kiya’s five year old cousin is brilliant in learning some signs and Serena will lip read as well so they can communicate.

Serena’s speech has come a long way and now, she can have conversations with us using her voice as well. We went through a lot of speech therapy and I asked her to repeat the words over and over again from the books I read to her. Now she speaks and signs at the same time.

I think CommuniCate is really good for other families too because you can learn together at home in your own environment and at your own pace. It can be hard to attend classes and the whole family can’t usually go to classes. I wish we could have had the kit at the beginning because we didn’t have anyone to teach us. It was hard just learning signs from Serena and her school.

Now I plan to build on what I have already learned through an Auslan course. I hope to be able to work as an interpreter or in a school supporting deaf children in the future.”

The CommuniCate kit includes game cards, story cards, a manual and a DVD-ROM.  If you would like to find out more about CommuniCate and considering purchasing the kit for your own family, go to our CommuniCate page or email helpline@deafchildren.org.au to learn more.

Families could be eligible for Better Start funding to purchase this resource. Go to www.betterstart.net.au to check your eligibility.

This resource has been developed by Deaf Children Australia with permission from the National Deaf Children’s Society in the UK and with the financial support of Queensland Health.

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