Wednesday, January 9, 2008


My friends, family and blog readers probably notice I mention Signing Time! often. Some people know the reason, others might not. So this post is to let everyone know just why Signing Time! means so much to me (and my immediate family), and why I want to share the story of Signing Time and the dvds with people.

Right from the start, I knew I wanted William to learn sign language. I wanted him to communicate in case his speech was not clear enough. His speech therapist also firmly believed in teaching babies ASL. She supplied me with books and videos, and I ordered several of my own. As a family, we practiced the basics we were teaching William. At 6 months old, what more did he need than 'milk', 'more', 'want', and 'eat'? So we would model the signs, and would do hand over hand with him as he got older.

By 2, he had some signs, many utterances and verbal approximations, but I knew that he could learn more signs and that some of the problem was because of me. I couldn't remember what I was seeing on the videos I had bought, and I was forever forgetting what I just looked up in the books. Shortly afterwards, one of the ladies on our Down syndrome messageboard mentioned this great new video she found, called "Signing Time!". She said it was fun, easy to remember what you learned, and her daughter loved it. I ordered it, and was hopeful that this might be the one to hold the attention long enough to learn for both William and myself. By the time he finished watching it the first time, he was already copying the signs being shown, and he was remembering them. More importantly, I was remembering them! We were so impressed with how quickly we all learned and how much fun we had watching the Signing Time! videos that when 2 new volumes came out, we bought them right away. It amazed me at how quickly William learned everything that Rachel was teaching. The rest of us were learning right along with him.

When William was 3, he transitioned out of Early Intervention and into Pre-School, and in his IEP we had stressed the importance of continuing to sign with him. Not long after he began pre-school, he was diagnosed with apraxia. With that, I knew that signing would be even more important in helping William communicate and speak. While signing helped William to clarify his needs, it was also helping his fine and gross motor skills, as well as his cognitive abilities. That came through quite clearly after he learned the manual alphabet with Signing Time! Volume 5: ABC signs. He began spelling words from the Signing Time series with his alphabet letters. He also started to point out words in books and reading them. William was 4½ at the time.

With each new volume, William's signing takes off. His clarity of speech improves. Between speech therapy at school and Signing Time! at home and at school, he has made amazing progress with speech, signing, and reading. Several weeks ago he was frustrated with me because I didn't quite understand what he was saying. It sounded like, "May I have my freafrrrr please" After several attempts to find out what 'freafrrrrr' was, and seeing him become totally exasperated with me, I asked him to fingerspell it for me. William's face lit up and he began finger spelling as he said, "L... E... A... P.... S...T.." OH! I exclaimed! You want your 'Leapster'! "Yes", William said, "May I have my 'llllleapfrrrr' please?"

A couple of years ago, Robert and I won an essay contest to have Rachel bring Signing Time to our town. William's entire school became involved, as each classroom learned a few songs from the series. They performed onstage with Rachel at the school in front of parents, and later at the high school in front of the community. Many people traveled from several states away to see Rachel perform onstage. Everyone in the audience signed and sang along. Nearly 2½ years later, people still talk about what a wonderful time it was.

Since then, Rachel and I have become pretty good friends, and I have thanked her many times for the gift of knowledge she has given to William. She has given me some amazing gifts as well: friendship, empowerment, and self-confidence. After the Hometown Show, Signing Time! started doing more live performances and outreach events. I volunteered on several of these trips, flying to Texas, Florida, North Dakota, and driving to a few others. I have worn the Hopkins costume and have taken hundreds of photos. I have talked to people about the story behind Signing Time! and I have shared our personal story. I've listened to countless stories of what Signing Time! means to families~ I've cried a lot, listening to them. I have also, most of my life, suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Traveling to unknown places would send me into panic attacks. Talking to people, to strangers, would usually make me nervous, tongue-tied, and ready to dart for the nearest exit. Yet seeing what Signing Time! has given William, and knowing that there are others out there who could benefit as we have, outweighed my fears. So I pushed through the panic attacks, and in a short time, they were gone. I conquered them. I have even, with only what I'd learned from Signing Time!, had a conversation in ASL with a deaf woman in a grocery store.

That is why I share Signing Time!, not only here and in real life, but by writing letters to magazines, tv shows, and companies, in hope that more people will tell the story of Rachel and her family.

And that is why I am asking people to donate money to aid their fundraising effort to send them to Ghana. Rachel and Leah are going there to teach the children in the deaf schools and the teachers ASL. The teachers have no Deaf ed background. Rachel said that when organizations have supplied the kids with hearing aids and glasses, they are taken away and sold within a few weeks because adults there think it's a waste to give these kids anything.

So Rachel and Leah are going to give children something that cannot be taken away ... knowledge.

Our family has sent our donation in. Will you help too? Every little bit helps. Let your friends and family know too. If you have connections to news stations, shows like Oprah, The View, Ellen... let them know. There's always so much in the news about the bad things going on... let's have them cover something positive.