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6 September 2021

Hands-on learning for ELC students

All signs are pointing to some very positive learning experiences at Blackfriars’ Early Learning…

All signs are pointing to some very positive learning experiences at Blackfriars’ Early Learning Centre.

Students in the ELC’s Purple Room are learning Auslan (Australian sign language), with fabulous results.

The move was sparked when a student, James, who has Down syndrome and associated verbal communication issues, started at the ELC.

Inclusion Support Educator Nicole Carapetis decided to learn some Auslan to better communicate with James; she plans to become fluent in the language.

Now, the Purple Room students, led by teachers Vittoria Maiorana and Meg Foody, are all learning Auslan.

With the support of Karen Colliver, from Kilparrin Teaching & Assessment School & Services, who regularly visits the ELC to catch up with James and his classmates, the children can already sign along to the popular song I Can Sing a Rainbow.

They are also learning the signs for the letters of the alphabet, are watching stories in Auslan and can sign some prayers.

The Purple Room staff are also learning important signs.

Ms Colliver, who works with children with hearing or vision impairments as well as additional needs, said the ELC’s Auslan program meant James had “access to communication”.

“It gives his peers the opportunity to communicate with him in his language,” she said.

James’s mum, Carolyn Geyer, said she and husband Peter were “so grateful” the ELC had embraced Auslan.

“It’s just been a wonderful thing,” Mrs Geyer said.

“For James, it’s his way of communicating vital things. But it’s not just about James. It’s helping other children who may be shy or trying to find their voice. It’s just a win, win.”

ELC acting director Jacqui Ballestrin said Auslan was a positive addition to the curriculum and that the students had embraced the learning opportunity.

“The children are keen to learn more and more signs,” Mrs Ballestrin said.

“And it gives them appreciation of the fact not everyone can communicate in the same way they do.”

Auslan has experienced a surge in popularity in the past 18 months, due largely to the high profile of interpreters during daily COVID-19 press conferences. Blackfriars’ Early Learning Centre offers an integrated, play-based curriculum for boys and girls, aged 3-5, in a safe and welcoming learning environment.