Addition of deaf campers a

By Doug Fitzgerald published July 21, 2004

Thirteen-year old Ryan Peterson stole the ball, took a quick glance at the clock and pumped his fist triumphantly. The buzzer signaled his teamâ€TMs two-point victory in one of many games played Wednesday at the Marty Fletcher Basketball Camp, hosted by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

But Peterson never heard the buzzer. He has never heard a buzzer. Peterson is deaf.

Perhaps the real beauty of the scene was that nobody, including Peterson and his three classmates from the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind noticed. On the court they arenâ€TMt deaf basketball players. They are just basketball players like everyone else.

Their participation was made possible by the CU-Colorado Springs Disability Services department, which arranged for an interpreter, Candice Brandt, to be available during the camp. It is hoped that the camp experience could serve as a pilot program of sorts to facilitate future partnership between the university and disabled students.

“Itâ€TMs going pretty smoothly,” said Brandt, who has been an interpreter for two years. “The deaf kids are interacting with the hearing kids and the coaches are communicating very fluidly with the (deaf) students. These days, mainstreaming children with disabilities into other settings is pretty normal.”

On the other end of the court, Chandon Finstad, 15, took the ball, executed a head fake learned in the morning session, and drove for a layup. The high-fives he received from teammates needed no interpretation.

“I like it, its fun,” said Finstad through Brandt. “Playing around and meeting new friends … itâ€TMs fun.”

Even in sign language, Finstad is shy and, well, soft-spoken. Peterson, on the other hand, is gregarious and energetic, often dancing his way from one station to the other. The two illustrate that kids are kids, with or without the presence or verbal communication. Itâ€TMs a lesson that everybody was learning.

“This is my first time playing with deaf players on the basketball court, but they play just like anybody else,” said Nick Baker, 14, who will be a freshman at Doherty High School this fall. “They know all the signs to pass and to shoot.”

Fletcher, the womenâ€TMs basketball coach at CU-Colorado Springs and veteran of over 20 years of collegiate coaching, was grateful for the experience and to those who helped make it possible.

“I think itâ€TMs worked out really well, not only for the campers who are hearing impaired, but also the other campers who are experiencing this,” said Fletcher. “Hopefully, this will be a good life lesson for everybody involved.

“I want to thank (Dean of Students) Robert Wonnett and Kaye Simonton of disability services here on campus for making it possible for us to have Candice Brandt here as the interpreter.”

That gratitude was reinforced by the smiles of the participating campers, both hearing and deaf.

“I really like the games weâ€TMve been playing,” said Peterson. “Iâ€TMve learned so much.”

So has everybody else.


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