Signing Santa lets hearing-impaired kids give wish lists
WATERFORD (AP): Speaking with his hands, a man in a Santa Claus suit asks children what they want for Christmas.
``Did you write a Christmas list?'' Ron Swartz signed to Darien Davis as the 10-year-old boy sat in his lap.
``I wrote a Christmas list for my parents and put a lot of presents on it,'' Darien signed back.
Swartz, like Darien, is deaf, The 52-year-old Clarkston has been taking Christmas wishes from deaf children for 10 years at Silent Call Communications in Waterford, about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.
The purpose is to give children who can't hear the same chance that hearing children have to talk to Santa, said Silent Call President George Elwell. The company makes alerting systems for deaf and hearing-impaired people.
``I've seen a lot of deaf kids going into malls and stuff to see a Santa, but then they couldn't talk to Santa,'' Elwell told the Detroit Free Press. ``This way the kids can come in, they sign to Santa, they tell them their wishes, he signs back to them.''
Many of the children who came out Saturday are hearing but have deaf parents.
Asked about his own Christmas wish list, Darien signed, ``a train, for sure,'' with grandmother Carol Wills of Holly interpreting.
This was the first time that Darien and his 8-year-old deaf sister Rebecca have visited a signing Santa.
In the past, the children have mainly gone to mall Santas with their two hearing siblings. But Darien and Rebecca haven't found the experience as fulfilling, their grandmother said.
``This is the first time I've ever seen them go up and talk'' through signing, Wills said.
Swartz said he started playing Santa Claus for deaf children because of his own difficulties as a child visiting Santa.
“He'd just go up to them and wouldn't be able to understand them,'' his 16-year-old son Warren Swartz explained, interpreting his father's signing. ``He was excited to see Santa, but he couldn't tell them what he wanted.''
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com