Leigha and the Triplets

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rachel Coleman...A True Inspiration (Part 2)

When Leigha was born I tried to use sign language with her, but I failed miserably. She learned "more" and a few other words. One of my friend's brother was deaf. I dated him for awhile in college. I took a few semesters of ASL but I never really had a chance to be surrounded by it. He read lips and my signing was SLOW! Now it was more than 10 years later and my signing was quite rusty. I gave up too easily.

I wanted it to be different with my boys. Due to prematurity and the fact that they are triplets, I knew that we would be heading in to some difficulties with language. I had heard about this wonderful series called Signing Time! from many triplet moms. I checked with the library and they didn't have the movies. I wrote them, asking them to consider purchasing them. Then I found out that Laura had the Baby Signing Time! dvds.

The day that she loaned me those dvds, our lives changed. My boys were GLUED to the television. The giggles that would emerge when those two little hands came on the screen were enough to melt any heart. The looks in their eyes were priceless. To make it even better, I LOVED THEM! A friend of ours gave us a few movies. We were beyond hooked. Last summer we made a 5000 mile car trip, with Signing Time! playing constantly. Do you know what was horrible? My mother and I wanted to see them, too! Although we only could hear them, that was enough for us. I knew all of the words to every song before we even reached our destination. I told everyone about these movies, I must have sounded like a walking billboard.

Then there was that magical day that I found the Signing Time! website. I can truly say that I have never been more inspired by someone than I was as I read about the Coleman family. I admire their entire family. Rachel had been a singer in a band when she had her first daughter, Leah. At the age of 14 months she found out that her daughter was deaf. Rachel put her guitar down and she and her husband focused their lives on learning sign language. They wanted to provide Leah with the best life she could have. Rachel and her sister started the Signing Time! series so that others could learn sign language and be able to communicate with Leah and other deaf children. I don't think they knew the magnitude of the impact they would have on other people's lives.

A few years later, Rachel became pregnant with her second daughter. During her pregnancy she found out that Lucy had Spina Bifida. She was also born prematurely which I believe caused Cerebral Palsy, too. Instead of focusing on the negative, Rachel and her husband focused on making Lucy's life the best it could possibly be. Lucy was Signing Time's first miracle. She defied the doctors, who had said she would be mentally retarded, and began signing. Her family was able to communicate with each other!

Rachel refers to herself as a mom, plain and simple. She thinks of herself as being blessed to be able to do what she does for a living. I think the whole world is blessed that she does what she does for a living. Rachel attends weekly chats on their website. It's funny to see people asking if it is "THEE RACHEL". OK, I admit it, I am one of those people! The chat is full of parents with children of all different ability levels. It is hard to believe what wonderful friendships grow out of these weekly chats.

My boys are two years old now. Noah is my most advanced signer. I caught him signing the ENTIRE "Silly Pizza Song" when we were in North Carolina this month. That just amazes me. Not only can he sign the words, but he did them in the correct order, faster than they did it on the TV. Noah can say his ABCs, thanks to Volume 5. Not only can he say them, but he can identify the lower case and upper case letters! Right now he is currently working on learning to sign the letters! I don't think it will take him long! What I love the most, is the fact that he can take the signs he learns, and apply them in other contexts. For example, we had another DVD in that a friend gave us. On of the songs is about chickens. Noah was immediately signing chicken everytime they said it.

Robert was fast to learn the signs that he uses daily. For example, he picked up on more, milk, please, thank you, and finished rather quickly. His favorite sign is dog! Everytime I would get them up from their naps, Robert was signing dog and pointing out the window torwards the barking dog next door. Robert adds more and more signs as time goes by.

Matthew is totally fascinated with Signing Time! and sign language. Matthew and I took a trip to Los Angeles to see a team of doctors at Shriner's Children Hospital. He watched that dvd screen like he was glued to it. The entire time I could see his hands trying to copy everything that was being signed. His face lights up when someone recognizes that he is signing something properly. I think it really cuts down on the frustration level he experiences.

Leigha watches the movies along with them. She remembers the signs so easily. I loved it when she asked me, and signed, "may I please be excused?" I LOVE IT!!! It just makes me sad that I didn't follow through with teaching her sign language as an infant. HOWEVER, it's never too late!

Leigha has been begging me to have a playdate with Lucy. It's been difficult trying to explain that they can't because Lucy lives in another state. She said that she thinks Lucy is beautiful and that she really wants to play with her. I wish she could, that girl is amazing. She just finished the 1st grade, where she received 100% grades on more spelling tests than I can remember. She is bright, beautiful, and just incredibly special. As a reward, Lucy gets to join in on some of the chats. It always brightens my day when I see her name pop up on my screen.

Leah is equally amazing. She just completed the 4th grade this year. She went up again 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in a spelling bee competition. Leah WON! She was at a major disadvantage since there are many words that don't have signs. Those words would normally be fingerspelled, but that can't happen in a spelling bee competition. Rachel video taped the competition and I just sat and watched in awe.

Rachel's husband, Aaron, is just as wonderful as the other three. He is devoted to his family and it shows. I love the fact that Signing Time! is a family production. Many of their family members are a part of the company in one way or another. It's just nice and refreshing to see a family that is that close and supports each other so nicely.

To be continued...

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