Thursday, March 10, 2016

Deaf For A Day

One morning last week, I woke up feeling like my ears were full and I was swimming in an underwater tunnel.  I tried all the usual remedies: Q-tips, Hydrogen Peroxide, pharmacist recommended- Dubrox and more Q-tips.  But after hours of underwater activities, they felt sore and I simply could not hear.

"Speak up and please look at me when you are talking," I asked my husband.  He was sitting next to me and was perplexed.  I couldn't hear the microwave ding, I couldn't hear the TV,  I couldn't hear my cell phone chime, I just couldn't hear anything.  I made an appointment at the doctor's office for the next day.  The next morning, it was actually worse.  I did not ear my alarm go off and could only only hear my own heart-throbbing thoughts.  While walking the dogs, I did not hear a car drive up behind me.  When I arrived at the doctor's office, I sat near where the nurse came out to call out patient's names, concerned that I would miss out.  I jumped up when I thought I saw her mouth my name.  As I followed her down the hall, she of course, began asking me questions, "What?" I said, "Pardon me, can you repeat that?"  "WHAT BRINGS YOU IN TODAY?" she shouted.  "I CAN NOT HEAR." I shouted back.

Finally, after sitting in the doctor's office waiting, worrying and feeling very isolated in my silent world, he came in.  I was ready for an answer or a remedy or something.

He looked in both ears and very calmly and loudly announced,  that both ear drums were impacted.   "WHAT?" I blared.  "BOTH EARS ARE IMPACTED WITH WAX. AND WE CAN FIX THAT TODAY."  I was so relieved that not only were my ears not infected, but they were going to take care of it right away.  Less than 20 minutes later, after have both ear canals flushed out with a strong stream of warm water, my ears were clear.  I COULD HEAR AGAIN!  I could have kissed everyone in the office.  I smiled. I cheered. I was out of my silent state.  I could hear again, what a wonder, what a blessing. WOW! When I turned on my car for the ride home, I had the radio so loud, I was nearly blasted myself out of my seat.  I really wasn't hearing anything, what an unbelievable situation that had been. Here I was creating sign language apps and I had truly experienced deafness.  God gave me the gift of that perception.

What did I learn? I learned to be grateful.  I realized that I took so much for granted, my hearing, my sight, my limbs, my health, I had so much to be grateful for!  But back to the lack of hearing, it had been a frightening experience. I was very much alone and removed from what was going on around me.  It was frustrating and confusing.  I felt completely socially-isolated.  Now I knew what people with disabilities experienced every day and all the time.  To NOT be able to see what others are seeing, or hear what others could hear, or do what others were so easily doing - that is very isolating. To truly assist others experiencing disability, we must do what we can to take them out of their isolation and empower them to do everything they want to do and more.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Why Sign Language?

The easy answer is Why Not? And the full answer is because you have so much to gain. 
Signing is beautiful and it is fun. It is a great way to encourage communication with young children and with those who have speech and/or hearing challenges. Signing can be used silently, or with vocalization.  Many signs are intuitive and children especially love the animal signs which are often very funny.   

For instance, the sign for DOG, is patting your thigh and snapping your fingers.

When my daughter was small and just starting school, she was unable to tell me about her day.  By us learning some signs together, we were finally able to communicate. We have always used spoken language when signing, because ultimately we wanted her to utilize full language.  In the past, she might just say or sign the word DRINK, holding a cupped hand to her mouth. 
In response, I would use signing as a verbal prompt.  I’d sign the word, “I” my pinky pointed toward myself and the sign for drink. This would get her thinking about saying more. She then would try to sign and/or say the sentence, “I want a drink please”. This encouraged her to make a complete sentence. Ultimately, with or without vocalization, signing allows a child to express themselves.

By teaching just a few signed words in a story, children and adults, have found it so much easier to learn and retain the words.  In our first Sign Me A Story app, 14 signed words are taught through live action video and animated adventure.  In the second story, 12 more signs are learned and previous signs are revisited.  By the end of the two apps, 26 signs are remembered. Kids can practice reading, review the videos as well. The story makes the whole experience entertaining and engaging.  

Signing is an amazing way to teach words, encourage language and break down communication barriers.  Why not learn to sign?  It will open up a whole new world.