Saturday, January 19, 2008

Get a great deal while you donate!

Looking for a good deal on Signing Time?

They still have some of the VHS tapes on sale for $5 each!

And while you're there getting that great deal, how about donating to the Signing Time Foundation for Rachel's Trip to Ghana? Rachel leaves for Ghana Africa on Monday and is nearly at her fundraising goal. If you could even just donate $1~ that would help. For information about her trip to Ghana, check out her blog and if you can, chip in and help!

So you could purchase Signing Time VHS tapes (great for gifts) AND donate and help make lots of people happy!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Heart and Soul

Last Friday was William's cardiology check up. His previous one was eighteen months ago. After his post surgery checkup at a few months old, he had a follow up every six months, then once a year. Some of the appointments went smoothly; others took an agonizingly long time, due to William's reticence. Since these check ups have always been such a big deal to us, Robert takes the day off to attend, as does Sarah, who has proven to be a great help to keep William distracted.

This year, our appointment was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. I apparently was not thinking clearly when I chose the time eighteen months ago. Either that, or I thought we might spend the night before in Boston so we wouldn't have to wake up before the crack of dawn to make the drive. We were making great time on our drive over, until we got to the next to last toll booth on the turnpike. What was easily a fifteen to twenty minute drive to the hospital from that point turned into more than double that. Ah, traffic. 'nuff said.

We checked in at the Cardiology Outpatient desk with over fifteen minutes to spare. Yay me! William immediately went to investigate the kitchen playset. By 9:30, William's height and weight were taken, and shortly afterwards we were in an exam room getting him ready for his blood pressure readings and EKG. He was resistant at first, but then relaxed with some diversions from his Leapster.
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They actually managed to get blood pressure readings from both arms and both legs~ this was a first!! In the past, he has always fought this and the techs were lucky to get the readings from one arm and one leg. It also used to take an unbelievably long time to get those readings too!

On to the EKG, which William still did not like; we had to hold him firmly to get all the leads on him.
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He was fascinated with the monitor and printout during this though.
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When we finally got to see the cardiologist (who has been his cardiologist since before William was born!), William was hesitant to let him listen to his heart. So the doctor let William and Sarah listen to everyone else's hearts with his stethoscope.
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William even listens to his Doctor's heart
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Everything came out great, and we don't have to return for another eighteen months! DSC01022
And at that time, the Doctor will try an Echocardiogram on William, since he hasn't 'seen' his heart since William was two or three months old.

One of the really neat things while we were there in the waiting room between the EKG and seeing the doctor was being able to communicate with each other from across the room. Robert would be in one area while William was playing, and Sarah and I would be in another. We could sign, "What's William doing?" or "Does he need to potty?" or any number of things without being obnoxiously loud to the other families there. I did notice something missing there though. Although there was a tv and a movie playing, the kids didn't pay much attention to it. So I think I'll be ordering some Signing Time! Volumes to donate to their waiting room. The families could pass the time together, in such a fun way!

Speaking of donations and matters of the heart, have you made your donation to Signing Time! yet? Rachel and crew leave in less than a week! Chip in today!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Motivation

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.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A challenge for me, a challenge for you.

I've been challenged.
Typically, I'm not the type to take dares; well, not often anyway. Last night in our Signing Time! chat, Rachel threw in a little bit of Signing Time! trivia: that her daughter Leah, sneaks into parts of the Signing Time! episodes that she is not typically in. In most of the shows, Leah and Alex only are shown in their treehouse, and not in other parts. So I said that I would have to go back through the episodes and see if I can spot Leah in with the other kids. Whereupon Rachel says to me, "How about if you take note and report back here next week with your findings?" Someone else called it the Signing Time! challenge, and those of us in chat are going to be watching all our episodes this week and see how often and where we spot Leah in the shows, and let Rachel know next week in chat. That's my challenge.

I have a different challenge for you.
Rachel and Leah are going to Ghana Africa on January 21st. The deaf schools there teach ASL, but they have limited resources. They have been using Signing Time! to learn ASL. When Leah found out more about the deaf schools in Ghana, and the limited rights and opportunities for them, she told her mom they had to do something about it. So they are going to Ghana in partnership with Signs of Hope International.
Here's my challenge to you:
1) Read Rachel's blog about going to Ghana.
2) Watch this interview with Leah

3) Make a donation to support their effort. Every dollar counts! Skip your coffeehouse coffee today and donate that money to the Signing Time! Foundation. My daughter Sarah donated money she made from the handmade items she sold at the local craft fair to support the fund and was only sorry she couldn't send more! So far the Foundation has received over $11,000, but they still need more!
Click here to donate
or mail your check to:
The Signing Time Foundation
623 E. Fort Union Blvd.
Suite 202
Midvale UT 84047

The Signing Time Foundation is a 501c3 Non-profit Organization. Your donations are tax deductible.