The weekly American Sign Language classes at Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet, IL, started as an idea from a high school volunteer.
Madi Curran, who has been taking ASL since her freshman year at Plainfield Central High School, brought the idea of the classes up as “something that could help our people with communication issues,” says Danette Krieger, activity director and volunteer coordinator at Sunny Hill.
Now, more than a year and a half later, Curran and a small group of residents meet each Tuesday to sign together. The classes began with basics, like the signs for “pain” and “please,” but have moved on to include performances of songs at holiday celebrations. Curran also assigns “homework” to the class, so they can continue the lessons on their own time.
Krieger says the residents have found Curran’s classes empowering, and they appeal to family members as a little “something different” to make their loved ones feel good.
The classes will continue in some form once Curran graduates, Krieger says, and staff training in ASL will hopefully follow.
“I hope it would add a little bit more of an understanding of what it’s like for people who are losing their hearing, and a way to break down a barrier so they can communicate in a new way,” Krieger says.