Students in a quiet, but active classroom at Monroe Elementary are learning grade-level lessons in American Sign Language.
Ryjan Reiniager is one of them, a ten-year-old who is hard of hearing.
“When somebody is far away and I’m far away, then I can’t hear them good [sic]. When I’m up close I can hear them good [sic],” he said.
Reiniager is on the right track with others his age, able to excel academically thanks to specialized staff at his school. “The interpreter can sign and they will help me,” he said.
There are deaf and hard of hearing teachers, assistants and interpreters who spend most of the day with about 20 elementary school kids. “It takes a lot of work to listen and to hear. Most people don’t know that. But it’s a lot of work, so it’s a support for them,” said deaf and hard of hearing teacher Joanna White.
Some students need the sign language support all the time; others can hear and use their voices. Some have implants or they wear hearing aids or wireless systems provided by Oklahoma City Public Schools. The district accepts students as young as age three - some still only able to hear sounds, but not explain what they are.
“For a child in my classroom, their brain is not necessarily mapped for sound right away and so we have to train it to listen and to pick up on words,” White said.
They are services for those without that sense, so they can stay on top of their studies and still be social with everyone else at school, helping them all to feel like normal kids.
“These kids are used to having kids with differing abilities. It’s not a weird thing to have somebody who signs, somebody who’s blind. That’s just a normal thing to them,” she added.