A choir that combines voice and signs

Integration

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© Belen Educa

Even though they suffer from severe hypoacusis, taking part in a choir has not proved an obstacle for Alexis and Valentina, two pupils from the Cardenal Carlos Oviedo school at the Belén Educa Foundation in Santiago, Chile. At the choir's performances, the children's fellow choristers sing out and use sign language at the same time, alongside their hearing affected pals. All children at the school, which has five deaf children, learn sign language as part of an integration initiative that takes in children with learning difficulties and special educational needs. Translating songs into sign language is undertaken by two teachers. It is arduous work. With each song needing two months of preparation, the choir's repertory is now four songs, and as two of the 16 second to fourth year members, Valentina and Alexis now perform the songs in their entirety. For Emelina Carrasco, head of the school, having an integrated choir of normal-hearing and hypoacusic children "is not just about integrating children into the community but also integrating the whole community in a natural way for everyone. The long-term result will be beneficial," she says.

Paula Leighton