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Gifts : Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Wonderful Story- Leah of SigningTime and her Spelling Bee

Just posted on Signing Time's Rachel's Blog. Leah is in the fourth grade, totally included with an interpreter, and is profoundly deaf. What a wonderful story! Congratulations Leah!

April 11, 2007
Miracle M-I-R-A-C-L-E Miracle
Filed under: Crazy Little Thing Called Life — rachel @ 10:47 pm

If anyone questions the benefits of early language acquisition, I invite them to take a look at this day. Today- April 11, 2007.

Watch Leah’s Spelling Bee

A few months ago, Leah told us that she was going to participate in the 4th grade Spelling Bee. This is her third year of being mainstreamed with an ASL interpreter. I was concerned about the 4th grade Bee, because many of the words have no signs and it would be cheating to have her interpreter fingerspell them to her. Leah was confident that she could memorize the words, the definitions and know how they are used in sentences.

She came home one day and said she made it into the top 10. Now the top 10 fourth graders would compete with the top 10 fifth and top 10 sixth graders in the school Spelling Bee. Now I was really concerned. Could she hear the words well enough? Is this fair? Should I save her the embarrassment? I mean, those kids have been able to hear their whole lives. I still remember missing the word “magazine” when I was in my school Spelling Bee, I was in 4th grade.

She practiced her words daily. I quizzed her. Lucy quizzed her. Aaron quizzed her. She even quizzed herself. She learned the definitions of BIZARRE and BAZAAR so she would not confuse them. I hoped she would not get cocky on words like FLOUR, only to find the word they wanted was FLOWER. This morning before school she was struggling with hearing the difference between INVISIBLE and INVINCIBLE. I was struggling to hear the difference between her “D’s” and “T’s” as well as her “C’s” and “Z’s.” Today was her school Spelling Bee.

Leah has been a voracious reader for years now. I think when early intervention told us she would most likely graduate from high school with a 3rd grade reading level, simply because of her deafness, I was thrown into complete terror. Not MY child! When we started using sign language, she started reading – simply because not all words have a sign, many are just fingerspelled. By age 2 she was able to “read” a list of over 20 words that we commonly fingerspelled. She looked at them on the page, spelled them on her hand and told us what they meant. Leah quickly finishes her school work so that she can pull a book out of her desk and continue whatever adventure she had left waiting. She is currently reading the second Eragon book.

Alex, my nephew, had similar early reading skills. He was being signed to at an earlier age than Leah. We only found out Leah was deaf when she was 14 months old. Alex was exposed to sign with his first month of life.

Today as we headed out the door to her elementary school to watch the Spelling Bee, I asked Aaron to grab the video camera. He sort of looked at me… and I said, “It’s nothing short of a miracle that she can even compete in a Spelling Bee.”

Her interpreter Kelli met us in the hallway. “I am SO nervous!” she admitted. She was standing by to interpret the instructions and possibly definitions if Leah needed her. Leah had excitedly realized yesterday that the top 3 winners would get trophies AND gift certificates to Barnes and Noble. Leah’s teacher fitted the microphone for Leah’s FM system on Craig Bolerjack, who was reading the words for the contest and pointed out Leah to him. She told Craig that Leah is deaf and she might need to see his mouth as he reads her words. As Leah progressed word by word, she was not searching Kelli’s hands or Craig’s lips for the answers. She was doing it on her own.

Leah Coleman won first place in the school Spelling Bee today. I cried. Aaron cried. Most of the adults were brought to tears. She really worked for it. I am so proud of her!


Snuggle Puppy's Mom said...

Leah's an amazing little girl. It is so awesome that she did it on her own! I so love Signing Time, we are huge fans!