Deaf Services is proud to provide Auslan education and training to the not only the next generation of interpreters and teachers, but also to everyday people who want to communicate better with those important to them.
For Lainey Smith, her Auslan education journey began with the birth of her daughter, Melody, who was born with hearing loss. While the news came as a shock, Lainey knew straight away that she would do anything to support her daughter.
Lainey explored her options and Melody began receiving support in English and Auslan from therapists at Deaf Services’ early intervention program Hear for Kids.
“It was important to me and my family that Melody had access to both languages, to be able to speak but also to be able to access Auslan,” Lainey says. “As well as this, she would have access to therapists who would support both language models.”
Melody showed a natural passion for sign language, and made immediate connections with therapists in Auslan. Lainey quickly realised that in order to fully support her daughter’s development, she would need to improve her sign language skills as well.
“When I saw that Melody loved to sign, I realised that I didn’t want her to be alone in that. I didn’t want her to feel lonely or isolated or that she was the only one.”
Lainey enrolled in the Certificate II in Auslan, offered by Access Training and Education, Deaf Services’ Registered Training Organisation (RTO Provider Number 41192), a decision Lainey knew immediately was the right one.
“It was so good,” she says. “So much of the learning in that first course was really practical, and we covered a really wide variety of topics. More importantly, I felt like I was getting more experience with adult vocabulary and a more adult way of explaining—things Melody would grow into and need in the future.”
The others in Lainey’s class were there for a variety of reasons, from other parents of Deaf children to teachers, support workers and even retail workers wanting to expand their skill set.
“I expected to learn Auslan, but I didn’t expect the community that came with it: other learners and their connection to deafness in other spheres. Talking to them, I got to understand a different aspect of the Deaf community that I wouldn’t naturally connect with.”
Lainey fell in love with the language, and quickly progressed through Certificate III and is currently undertaking a Certificate IV along with many other classmates from her original group. For Lainey, there is no question that she will stop learning.
“For Melody, I need to keep continuing to improve my Auslan, because it will continue to give her that foundation and that option, however she progresses in the future and however she chooses to communicate. If I stop learning, that stops her from learning. The more I learn, the more it gives her access.”
Lainey believes that learning Auslan has benefits for everyone, and would encourage anyone to begin their Auslan journey with Deaf Services.
“The classes are really practical,” she explains. “The teachers are Deaf, so it’s immersive learning, and you learn a lot just from being in that environment.”
The flexibility of learning was another plus, especially with the availability of online learning.
“Outside of class time, the online learning meant I could go at my own pace, and fit in my study around my family schedule. The online modules always supported our in-class work, so there wasn’t ever any feeling of disconnection between practice and theory.”
It’s clear that family is everything to Lainey, and Auslan has easily become part of everyone’s communication. As well as Melody, Lainey’s husband and two older sons now use Auslan as part of their everyday communication.
“It’s been really fun as a family,” Lainey says. “Both my boys love to sign. They understand a lot, and anything they don’t understand they ask about. As Melody grows older, hopefully they’ll be able to maintain their communication in whatever method Melody chooses.”
From a very practical perspective, Lainey says Auslan gives her and her husband certain advantages as parents.
“I can tell my kids something from 50 metres away without yelling, or communicate with my husband without the kids hearing!”
Lainey has already applied to begin a Diploma of Auslan in 2020, and after that will undertake the Diploma of Interpreting.