Signing Time! StoryThe creation of Signing Time! was a labor of love, born out of the desire to teach children everywhere how to sign basic words in order to communicate. After all, this is precisely what sisters Rachel de Azevedo Coleman and Emilie de Azevedo Brown spent much of their time doing with their young children.
In December of 1996 Leah was born to Rachel and her husband Aaron. At the time, Rachel was writing music and performing with her band. Rachel and Aaron would take young Leah to band practices and concerts, and to their amazement, she was able to sleep in spite of the loud music. When she was fourteen months old, they discovered why: Leah was deaf. She never heard the music. She never heard her mom sing.
"When I realized my daughter was deaf," Rachel admits, "I just couldn't find a way to rationalize spending hours working on my music. My priorities changed. I put down my guitar and picked up sign language." She and Aaron immediately started learning American Sign Language (ASL) so they could teach it to Leah.
Rachel was astonished to see that within six months, Leah's sign language vocabulary far surpassed the vocabulary of hearing children her same age. Rachel explains, "While Leah's little friends could only point at something they wanted, Leah could actually tell us." Because she had learned to use sign language so early, it was not long before she could read written words, even though she was only two years old.
Emilie and her husband Derek also started teaching sign language to their infant son Alex, so that he would one day be able to communicate with his cousin Leah. Emilie was thrilled one morning when Alex, then only ten months old, stopped fussing, looked up at her, and made the sign for milk.
A few years later, Rachel had a second daughter. Lucy was born 8 weeks pre-mature, with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Doctors worried that, due to her cerebral palsy, Lucy would never be able to communicate with her Deaf sister.
In the midst of all of this, Rachel shared an idea with her sister. She wanted to create a video for hearing children that would be captivating, entertaining, and would make sign language accessible to all children.
Shortly after the release of Signing Time! Volume One: My First Signs, Lucy decided to sign! In spite of her cerebral palsy, Lucy currently has hundreds of signs and spoken words! After two long years of showing no interest in communication, she suddenly had a language explosion! At 2 years old, Lucy could fingerspell her own name and Leah's. Lucy signs and sings her ABC's. She can say and sign every color and can count to 10...and her speech and sign vocabulary expands each day. Lucy became the first of many Signing Time! miracles.
The timing for such a work couldn't be more perfect. There has recently been an incredible amount of media attention focusing on how infants and toddlers can communicate with signs before they can speak. The research, as well as the first-hand experience of many parents like Emilie and Rachel, demonstrates that signing children generally have higher IQ scores, are better adjusted, and read at an earlier age.
By learning to communicate earlier, the "terrible twos" are not so terrible. And, with millions of Deaf or hearing-impaired Americans using ASL as their native language, communication through signing has become an important part of American culture.
While Signing Time! is a blessing to all parents interested in the benefits of teaching sign language to their children, Rachel confesses a more personal goal. " One in 1000 babies are born deaf. I have no control over that. But, I can do my best to share my daughter's language with you and your children."
"I can't tell you how many times we've been at the park and other children notice she is signing and they don't know what to do. They don't know how to approach her at all, so they stay away. My hope is that the communication barrier between the deaf and hearing will dissolve; that every one will know a little sign, just as most people know a little Spanish. And when your child sees my child at the park, there would be no awkwardness… just three signs... 'Hi ~ friend ~ play'…that is all it would take to change her world."
After years of musical silence, Rachel recently picked up that guitar again, writing and performing all of the songs for Signing Time! She used to sing for herself and her fans. Now, she sings and signs for Leah and Lucy.
Watch video about Signing Time (wmv 4.9Mb)
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