Signing family helps bring expert to North Bend event
November 10, 2010
By Laura Geggel
Before the birth of her second son, Megan Spires didn’t know a single sign beyond the alphabet.
Now, she knows American Sign Language words for all sorts of things, and signs to her husband and four boys at home, while she simultaneously speaks to them in English.
The North Bend family became bilingual when doctors diagnosed its second son, Carson Spires, with Pfeiffer Syndrome in 2006.
A bright and engaging child, Carson looks a little different than most boys his age. His skull prematurely fused when he was a baby, affecting his facial features and his hearing.
Carson had limited hearing because of his severe hearing loss until he was 2, when he received a hearing aid that better fit his needs. A surgery in 2009 and an operation scheduled for this December will give Carson a bone-anchored hearing aid, which will help him hear as well as any other child, Megan said.
The family realized it had to act fast to ensure Carson wouldn’t fall behind in his language development. Working with the Parent Infant Program at the Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center in Seattle, they soon had weekly visits from a sign language teacher, who introduced them to a “Baby Signing Time” DVD.
The DVD changed their lives.
“When we first started with Carson, my initial thought was, ‘This isn’t going to work. I mean, I’m signing to a baby,’” Megan said.
But it did work, and the entire family began speaking in sign, whether they were learning during a home-school lesson or reading a storybook together.
“We soon realized it wasn’t just good for him, it was good for all of us,” Megan said.
Studies show that signing helps children build confidence, improve their spelling and reading skills and can even improve IQ scores.
The Spires family can’t speak highly enough of Signing Time, a company that designs curriculum that teaches children how to sign. When it began offering ASL certification in 2009, Megan quickly got her certificate. She started a company, Signing for Life, and will offer ASL classes at Si View Community Center starting in January.
Her class will be listed in the December Si View class booklet. Learn more at www.siviewpark.org or on her blog at http://signing-for-life.blogspot.com.
“You could totally see her passion and dedication to teaching sign language to others,” Si View recreation coordination Jessica Steinborn said.
Megan and her boys — 6-year-old Owen, 4-year-old Carson, 2-year-old Tanner and 5-month-old Eli — will help her teach the classes; one for children 3 or younger and the other for children ages 4-8.
“I’m excited to share it,” Megan said.
Signing Time creator to visit Seattle
Signing Time so inspired Megan and her family that they worked with other Pacific Northwest families to bring its creator, Rachel Coleman, to Seattle.
Their efforts paid off. Coleman has scheduled a visit to the Northgate Community Center in Seattle, where she will give a family-friendly show. Coleman also plans to visit Seattle Children’s, where she will give a private show to patients and their families.
Proceeds from the show benefit the Signing Time Foundation, dedicated to making sign language accessible to all children. The foundation also supports deaf education in Ghana, and helps bring Signing Time to the Public Broadcasting Service.
Coleman has two daughters, one who is deaf and another who has cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Coleman, a former folk rock artist, put her charisma and voice to use, making DVDs, music CDs, books and flashcards for children learning ASL. She targets a wide audience, including preverbal infants, children with disabilities and families who want to learn ASL.
Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.
If you go
Signing Time benefit concert
5 p.m. Nov. 20
Northgate Community Center
10510 Fifth Ave. N.E., Seattle
$5 children, $10 adults
What to know
Register for American Sign Language classes at Si View
- 3 or under class: 10-11 a.m. Jan. 5 to Feb. 9, every Wednesday, $75
- 4- to 8-year-olds class: 6:15-7:15 p.m. Jan. 5 to Feb. 9, every Wednesday, $75
- 3 or under class: 10-11 a.m. March 2 to April 27, every Wednesday, $100
- 4- to 8-year-olds class: 6:15-7:15 p.m. March 2 to April 27, every Wednesday, $100