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Entire school learns and performs song in sign language for student with Down syndrome

All 580 students at the school took part in the effort as part of New Zealand Sign Language Week which is celebrated every year during May.

Entire school learns and performs song in sign language for student with Down syndrome
Cover Image Source: Facebook/NZ Herald

"Don't worry, about a thing... 'Cause every little thing, gonna be all right..." This is the message students of Havelock North Primary school in New Zealand had for one of their peers. Over 1,000 small hands delivered this heartwarming affirmation to the young boy — who has Down Syndrome — earlier this month when they performed the Bob Marley classic, "Three Little Birds," in sign language. According to NZ Herald, all 580 students at the school took part in the effort as part of New Zealand Sign Language Week which is celebrated every year during May.

Image Source: Facebook/NZ Herald

Principal Nick Reed revealed that sign language is a part of everyday life for some of their students. However, the performance on May 13 was specifically orchestrated for the student with Down syndrome who communicates through sign. "We want to make sure we're being inclusive and recognize all of our students," said Reed. The principal added that the junior school has become quite competent at signing, which has also filtered to the rest of the school with the students often teaching the adults. Speaking of the student for whom the New Zealand Sign Language Week performance was organized, Year 1 teacher Annie Boyd — who had the boy in her class last year — explained that she wanted to make sure the other kids in class could communicate with him.

Image Source: Facebook/NZ Herald

The student, Boyd said, brought a whole new dimension to her class. "He's just so much fun, the kids loved being with him," she said. "Children need to know about inclusiveness – we haven't seen Sign Language Week being talked about, but we need to make it more shown as it's our third language in New Zealand." Boyd added that it's really important for people to know the basics of the language. "You see it on the TV next to Ashley Bloomfield, and we should see more of it," she said.

Image Source: Facebook/NZ Herald

Boyd also revealed that the primary school is currently trying to normalize having someone sign in assembly with official communicator and teacher aide Kate Shephard on hand. Two Year 5 students also spoke at the assembly on the day of the performance, sharing their piece on why they use sign language and why it's really important to them. One of the students, Lote Shanley, said that his little sister has Down syndrome. "We have to do sign language in our house with her," he said.



 

Meanwhile, Micah Robinson's family learned sign language to communicate with an uncle who suffered a brain injury when he was five years old and can't hear at all. The student explained that they use sign language to talk to him, and he lip-reads. "New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is recognized as an official language of New Zealand through the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006," states the country's bilingual education portal. "For this reason, NZSL has a special mention in The New Zealand Curriculum (2007). As Deaf people come to have more people to communicate with, our society becomes more inclusive."

 



 

According to Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, as of 2018, about 23,000 people in New Zealand had some knowledge of NZSL. "NZSL is closely related to both British Sign Language (BSL) and Australian Sign Language (Auslan), thanks to the historical and ongoing contact between these countries," the website states. "BSL, Auslan, and NZSL form a language family known as BANZSL, with BSL as the 'mother' language. It is likely that there were deaf people who used BSL among early emigrants from England and Scotland to New Zealand."

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