He is unique in so many ways and, though profoundly deaf, Elisei Cionca has inspired the hearts of classmates and teachers at Hart Memorial Primary School.
His close friend Brooklyn Bruce has also become an inspirational figure in the classroom, as Elisei’s helpful, signing side-kick.
Brooklyn is just seven years old but has thrown his little heart and soul into helping his eight-year-old buddy Elisei.
Little Brooklyn appears to have a knack for signing and helps his mate in an unobtrusive and unassuming manner.
It’s been a long and sometimes challenging road since little Elisei first joined the nursery school at Hart Memorial, shy and unable to communicate. Due to a genetic condition, little Elisei is profoundly deaf.
His Special Education Needs assistant Tracey Black went beyond the call of duty and, in her own time, learned sign language to help communicate with the little boy.
Hart Memorial Principal Julie Shipley said: “Tracey sourced, when Elisei first came into nursery, a course to get to Stage One BSL. She did that of her own volition.
“She developed that and all the way along with her education, taught others including the children in the class.
Now his current teacher Zoe Annett is also able to sign and Elisei has become totally involved in all class activities.
And Elisei’s Romanian parents have learned sign language along with their son.
Elisei has other adult members of the family who are deaf and others who are hearing.
“The way they had been communicating prior to this was ‘made-up’ gestures,” said Julie Shipley.
“Now when we get one of the deaf members of the family for a parents meeting, we can get a Sign Language interpreter whereas before what we were doing was getting a Romanian interpreter who was hearing and using these made up gestures which weren’t any sign language, let along Romanian sign language.”
She explained the teachers Elisei has had over the years have been tremendously supportive.
“Now the children in the class know way more than the teachers,” she said.
Brooklyn has been in the same class as Elisei since nursery. The two boys have always been good friends.
Brooklyn seems to have a special talent for picking up sign language and has used this to support Elisei throughout school, in and out of the classroom.
Mrs Black, Elisei’s SEN assistant, says that she never has to worry about Elisei when she’s not there as she knows Brooklyn will keep him right!
Ms Shipley said: “Elisei loves to organise people!
“If he sees one of his classmates misbehaving, he’s over to them, signing away and wagging a finger, to tell them what they should be doing.
“When he’s had his say, he’ll stand there with his hands on his hips, shaking his head and rolling his eyes!
“We think he’s completing his apprenticeship to be a teacher himself at sometime in the future.
“Elisei looks forward to holidays when the family is going to Romania.
“Often his excitement overcomes him and he’s up at the front of the classroom doing Romanian traditional dancing!
“Elisei is interested in everything that’s going on in and out of the classroom and likes to share his opinion on everything too!
“Ms Black, his SEN assistant, sometimes has to explain the fine line between being curious and being nosey!
“He is the most positive, fun-loving enthusiastic pupil you could hope to meet!
“He is fully involved in school life and, whenever his class has a special event e.g. a special assembly for parents and pupils, a performance at the carol service, all the pupils include a signing element into the content.”
Indeed at Christmas just past, his class performed ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ using sign language and the whole congregation loved it.
Miss Shipley said the school is very proud of Elisei and Brooklyn and all the children who have learned to sign as well as Ms Black and Mrs Annett.
She said Education Authority has provided a Sensory Support Service advisor, Janice McKillop, who comes to him once a week.