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April 17, 2014

Sign of support: Class meant to connect hearing-impaired family members

Man teaches sign language to connect families

Jordanna Dishner-Rush gestured forcefully to a coat rack hanging in the back of the meeting room at the Logansport Library.

She was trying to use just hand motions — no speech — to get the other women to guess the secret word she'd been given.

Dishner-Rush and about a dozen other women were gathered for the second class in a series of 12 happening twice a month at the library. The game was an exercise to help the class members understand how communication takes place without spoken or written words.

Eventually they guessed "brown," the color of the coat rack and the other items Dishner-Rush had pointed to.

Boone Sumantri, a local resident and former president of the Emmaus Mission Center board, started the class, he said, in order to help people communicate with their family members who are hearing-impaired.

Some class members decided to join for just that reason.

Diana Gearhart's husband is going deaf because of Meniere's disease, an inner ear disorder. Erin Black signed up because she just had twin children, one of whom is hearing-impaired. Black's mother Kelly Callaway came along, too.

Another Logansport woman, Joan Miller, said she wanted to learn sign language before she needed it.

"I see a lot of older people that can't hear well," Miller said.

Her daughter, Vicky Maroney, attended class Tuesday as well. A third-grade teacher at Fairview Elementary, she said she hoped to learn sign language in order to communicate with hearing-impaired students she may have in the future, or hearing-impaired parents.

Although he describes himself as a beginning sign language user, Sumantri feels strongly that learning sign language would ultimately improve hearing-impaired people's quality of life by helping them communicate better with their family.

At almost 87 years old, Sumantri's own hearing is impaired now. He moved to Logansport in 2006 and quickly got involved in area volunteer organizations, helping to start the local chapter of the Fuller Center for Housing as well as working to form a dual land-and-water trail connecting Lafayette and Huntington through Logansport.

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