For the holidays many families go to worship. Here are some tips for including your deaf child and making it fun!
1.Work with your place of worship to have an American Sign Language interpreter for worship services and activities. Usually you have to search for an interpreter who knows the vocabulary and has experience with your worship services. These interpreters are out there, you just have to start your search early! Your place of worship should pay for the interpreter. At our church, after a while we started making the arrangements with the interpreter directly via email and phone, and the church paid the interpreter, this was more efficient and avoided miscommunications.
2.Here is a big tip: work with someone involved with the worship services to get copies of the agenda, scriptures, hymns, and sheet music or at least the words to the songs that will be performed at the service for the interpreter before the worship services. Sometimes it is difficult for the interpreter to hear/understand the words of songs someone or the choir is signing.
3.For really well attended services, arrive early so your family can sit in the front row in order to see the interpreter without obstruction. The location for the interpreter and the entire deaf persons family should be reserved by the church.
4.Include your deaf child in any holiday related activity, for example making advent wreaths etc. With good planning, the interpreter should attend these activities too.
5.If your family will be participating in worship services include your deaf child along with your other children. For example, at one Christmas service our family had to read a couple of passages of scripture. Larry signed a passage and the interpreter interpreted. Larry has a Bible for the Deaf and he signed the passage from his Bible. Again, explain to the interpreter the format of the particular worship service and get the interpreter scripture passages etc early.
From the time we moved to Massachusetts, when Larry was 10 years old, right through to Larrys high school and university years we attended the Presbyterian Church in Sudbury, MA. We were blessed to have Pastor George Saylor who did a great job of including Larry in church activities and services. Pastor Saylor and elder Doris Soule did all that was necessary to ensure that an American Sign Language interpreter was available and paid, for all church activities that Larry attended. Doris Soule gave Larry his Bible for the Deaf. We were very lucky to find Marion Butland to interpret at church activities and services.
When Larry and Amrit were expecting Raveena and starting a family we moved from the Presbyterian Church in Sudbury to Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA. Grace Chapel has a Deaf Ministry with many Deaf members and American Sign Language interpreters for church activities and worship services.
Please let us hear your holiday worship tips!