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SIGNING SANTA DOES MORE THAN LEND AN EAR

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Deaf children who can't whisper into Santa's ear are signing like mad with a special Santa Claus.

Kassandra Schrienk, who set up the signing Santa, still remembers how frustrating it was as a child, trying to lip-read and get a word in between the ho-ho-hos."Santa couldn't understand me because my speech wasn't nearly as good as it is now, and I couldn't understand him because of that big beard," said Schrienk, community resource coordinator for the Deaf Services Center. "There were just a lot of smiles and the flash of the camera. I never really got to tell Santa what I wanted."

The center's St. Nick, Marvin Stitt, is visiting with the hearing impaired at the Columbus City Center shopping mall.

"The real Santa can hear and sign," signed Jason Babb, 9, as his aunt, Brenna Roth, interpreted.

Third-grader Nathan Boatman also was excited.

"If you don't see him, then Santa Claus won't know what you want," Nathan said. "I asked for a Miami Dolphins jacket, hat and clothes."