The Signing Time Story
In December of 1996, Rachel Coleman and her husband Aaron welcomed their first daughter Leah into the world. At the time, Rachel was writing music and performing with her folk rock band. They would take young Leah to band practices and concerts and were amazed that she was able to sleep in spite of the loud music. When she was fourteen months old, they discovered why: Leah was profoundly deaf.
To say the least, their world turned upside down. Rachel's priorities instantly changed: she put down her guitar and picked up sign language. She and her husband immediately started teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to Leah as fast as they could learn it. Something remarkable happened: by the time Leah was 18 months old, her baby sign language vocabulary far surpassed the spoken vocabulary of hearing children her same age. While Leah's little friends could only point and whine for something they wanted, Leah found it much more effective to sign, "Juice, not milk" or, "Cheese and crackers, please". Other parents took notice, including Rachel's sister Emilie, who started teaching sign language to her infant son Alex, so that he would be able to communicate with Leah. Emilie was thrilled one morning when baby Alex, then only ten months old, found his own use for sign language: he stopped fussing, looked up at her, and signed "milk".
A few years later, Rachel's second daughter Lucy was born. After dealing with Leah's deafness, she thought she was prepared for anything. However, Lucy arrived eight weeks premature with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Doctors worried that Lucy would never be able to speak, let alone use her rigid fingers to sign with her deaf sister.
In the midst of all of this, Rachel and her sister Emilie decided to team up to create a captivating, entertaining video to teach sign language to hearing children. Their plan was to make a short DVD that gave their friends and family a fun and easy way to learn a second language, but most importantly to sign with Leah. In May of 2002 the first volume of Signing Time! was completed, starring Rachel, 3-year-old Alex and 5-year-old Leah. The response was overwhelming. Word spread from mom to mom and family to family. Before long, the small community of people learning to sign with Leah grew into an expansive community of parents, educators and health professionals using Signing Time to introduce the benefits of sign language to children everywhere. Testimonials poured in with touching stories about how Signing Time had been instrumental in dissolving communication barriers and giving a "voice" to children who previously had no way to express themselves. Everyone wanted more Signing Time. Rachel and Emilie's company, Two Little Hands Productions, was born.
Shortly after the release of Volume 1, the Coleman family experienced a miracle of their own making: after two years of no communication, Rachel's second daughter Lucy began to sign along with Signing Time, despite her physical challenges. Shortly thereafter, Lucy started talking. At age five, Lucy began attending mainstream kindergarten, something Rachel never imagined possible.
One Mom's Journey