Monday, February 18, 2008

Finding The Good

I can't deny it, we do watch a bit of T.V. here at our house. We don't actually have T.V., per se, but we do borrow a lot of videos from the library. Our favorite videos these days are the "Signing Time" video series. If you don't know what this is, you really have to go check out the website (listed under my Parenting Links).

The woman who started "Signing Time" is a huge inspiration to me. Rachel came from a musical family and was a working folk-singer when she and her husband, Aaron, discovered that their one year old daughter, Leah, was deaf. Rather than take this as a total blow to everything their life was supposed to mean, Rachel and Aaron threw all their energy into learning American Sign Language (ASL). Not only did Rachel learn ASL, but she and her sister embarked on a mission to teach it to other families in an informative, exciting way. Using musical skill and production saavy, the sisters created a production company and a fantastic venue for learning ASL using music, dialogue, and actual shots of children signing. "Signing Time" became a national phenomenon, with added emphasis by research that came out around the same time touting the benefits of signing for hearing children as well.

The story doesn't end there: Just as "Signing Time" was beginning production, Rachel and Aaron had their second daughter, born prematurely with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Though it was possible that she would never be able to sign (because of stiffness in her fingers), the couple was undetered in their dreams for their youngest daughter. Today, Lucy signs with her big sister and goes to a mainstream school. Leah is well adjusted (famous, even!), having learned to "talk" when she was only a year old.

June and I started learning signs (food, drink, milk, more, all done) when she was about 6 months old. She didn't pick up on it right away, but with the help of these videos and lots of practice (mostly for Mommy), she knows about 100 signs (my favorite is "elephant"). I love it that we have our own language we can use in public, whether surrounded by chaos or by silence. June has excellent verbal skills (research says signing kids have an earlier understanding of vocabulary and the importance of communication) and more than once we've stopped a melt-down by utilizing signs when her spoken words were unclear to me. There was a recent article in the New York Times online about helping toddlers avoid tantrums. The article ultimately surmised that the adult should get down on the child's level, talk to them by repeating their own words back to them, and let the child express what they need to say, knowing they are being heard. Hmm...isn't that just Basic Communication, 101? So...signing helps. Using simple phrases in language she can use and understand, she speaks. I hear.

In the meantime, I'm inspired by Rachel as a mother. Instead of letting a hard situation break apart her family, she allowed her life to change around her child's needs. Instead of putting her dreams first, she put a vision of her child's future first. As a result, this woman has inspired millions of people and opened a door to communication and understanding with an often marginalized culture. We have a couple ASL interpreters at our church that sign for the 9 am service on Sunday morning. Maybe someday that will be June up there, using her second language. At the very least, she'll be able to share a few phrases in a foreign language with someone who just needs to be heard.

I'll end this post with one of Rachel Coleman's songs. I cry when I hear the acoustic version:


The Good by Rachel deAzevedo Coleman
(dedicated to her husband, Aaron)

It was you and me and the whole world right before us
I couldn’t wait to start
I saw you and dreams just like everyone before us
We thought we knew what we got

And then one day I thought it slipped away
And I looked to my hands to hold on
And then one day all my fear slipped away
And my hands did so much more

So maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good
No, maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good!

It was you and me and a new world right before us
I was so scared to start
I saw you and dreams just like everyone before us
But how did they move so far?

And then one day I thought it slipped away
And I looked to my hands to hold you
And then one day all my fear slipped away
And my hands did so much more

So maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good
Maybe we won’t find easy
But, baby, we’ve found the good!


Signing Time ©2004 All rights reserved. All songs Written by Rachel de Azevedo Coleman. © 2004 Two Little Hands Productions, LLC
P.O. Box 581037 Salt Lake City, UT 84158 • tel: 801.533.0444 • fax: 801.880.5151 • sales@signingtime.com