A New Zealand Sign Language playgroup for pre-school children is launching in Auckland this month, thanks to a partnership between The Hearing House and not-for-profit Deaf Aotearoa.
The playgroup, which will be held at the Joyce Fisher Centre at The Hearing House’s base in Greenlane, will be run by Deaf Aotearoa’s First Signs service and will cater for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and their whānau.
All activities and teaching will be conducted in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL).
“Our new NZSL play group is an opportunity for Deaf children to learn and use NZSL with Deaf role models. It’s much more than who’s wearing cochlear implants or hearing aids -- it’s an essential part of language development,” says Natasha Cloete, Child and Youth manager at Deaf Aotearoa.
“For many families, it’s a challenge to find a NZSL-rich environment and it’s hoped that our playgroup will provide that much-needed environment for Deaf children in the same way te kōhanga reo does for Māori tamariki.
“It will demonstrate the practical way of Deaf awareness and how Deaf Adults interact with everyone, including children,” she says.
“It also provides a safe space for children to watch and access what everyone’s talking about.”
Dr Claire Green, chief executive of The Hearing House, adds, “The playgroup at the Joyce Fisher Centre provides a wonderful opportunity for everyone to experience sign language, even if you’re Deaf or Hearing and either know sign language or not.
“The Hearing House team is excited about the opportunity to learn more about Deaf culture and improve their sign language skills, and to have the chance to observe our younger clients and their whānau interact using the visual language.”
New Zealand Sign Language is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s official languages, and many Deaf and hard-of-hearing children or adults use NZSL as part of their everyday lives.
The playgroup will be held fortnightly at 251 Campbell Road, Greenlane, from Wednesday, 10 May until Wednesday 21 June from 10am – 12pm. It is open to First Signs and The Hearing House clients aged 0 – 5 years old.