Sertoma’s Pizzeria Lunch Helps Students Practice Speech

The members of the Northwest Sertoma Club, and students from the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas, participated in a special Pizzeria Luncheon, designed to help students practice their communication skills.

September 1, 2016

Communication is an art that cannot always be taught. For some students, it is a fundamental tool that takes time, persistence and patience to develop. For students attending the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas, a unique event was held to provide students with an opportunity to learn and implement various types of communication in a creative setting.

To help the students, the Northwest Sertoma Club, of Austin, Texas, has been volunteering and hosting an annual Pizzeria Luncheon.

This unique event is designed to provide students with the opportunity to speak with Sertoma members in an informal, one-on-one conversational setting. Students are encouraged to converse with the members and are given chances to practice ordering pizza in a restaurant style environment.

The cafeteria at the school is decorated similarly to an Italian Pizzeria, and around 80-90 students attend the event in 30 minute intervals. In total, the luncheon lasts around 2-3 hours.

The festive event is typically an end of the year celebration, and is held during May Better Hearing and Speech month.

Jeanie Samson, an active member of the sponsorship committee, and a member of the Sertoma club board for three years, said that she always looks forward to interacting with the students.

“We don’t know sign language, so the students are encouraged to speak with us,” Samson said. “There is a girl I’ve talked to for a couple of years now. She loves to talk with us, and is very engaging.”

Kristi Bryce, a speech language pathologist at the Texas School for the Deaf for 25 years, and member of the Northwest Sertoma Club for 15 years, said that in a way the event has become a tradition for the students.

“Many of the students ask about it. It’s a good lesson for them,” Bryce said. “The goal is to help the students feel more confident communicating throughout the community.”

Bryce added that the luncheon teaches students how to communicate in multiple ways. Overall, the event is very interactive, and allows the students to problem solve and read body language.

“Although our students use American Sign Language (ASL) we encourage them to speak, write or use communication boards with pictures,” Bryce said. “When the student’s speech is understood, it allows the students to develop communicative closure.”

As for continuing the Pizzeria Lunch tradition, Samson and Bryce are both interested in planning and hosting future events.

“We love helping people. We love supporting those who need support,” Samson concluded. “Our main focus and most of our time goes to hearing health and helping both Deaf and Hard of Hearing adults and children.”

Bryce agreed that the event is mutually beneficial, and most importantly, is enjoyed by all who participate.

“Our members like to interact and show the kids magic tricks,” Bryce added. “It’s fun, because no matter what language you speak, the words don’t necessarily need to be there, because the camaraderie is.”


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