Rachel, Alex and Leah in North Carolina

See Rachel, Alex and Leah in North Carolina at the North Carolina Triangle Down Syndrome Network Buddy Walk

Sunday October 12th, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Rachel, Alex and Leah will be performing at 2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

Where: Brier Creek Community Park located at 10810 Globe Road, Raleigh, NC 27617.

Additional Information: Registration for the event is $15 for adults and $5 for kids. The registration fee includes Buddy Walk t-shirt, lunch and access to all entertainment. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Triangle Down Syndrome Network (TDSN), which supports individuals who have Down syndrome.

For more information and to register, visit: Triangle Down Syndrome Network

Keep scrolling to read some incredible stories about families in North Carolina who are excited to meet Rachel, Alex and Leah.

Can’t Wait to See Rachel at the Buddy Walk

by The McCaffrey Family
Marty, Theresa, Connor, Shea and Brenna
Raleigh, NC

Written by Dad:

Our daughter Shea, now 8 continues, for better or worse, the McCaffrey tradition of outspoken children as a result of her signing.  Shea developed a real interest in signing at about 2 years of age.  She has had significant speech delays and as we pursued signing with Shea we heard the usual warnings that signing would delay her acquisition of verbal communication skills.  Shea clearly felt otherwise.  Signing was the only significant way for us to communicate for several years, but even as Shea has increased her verbal skills, she has continued to enjoy and employ signing.  Shea’s articulation is challenging at times and her willingness to help her mom, dad and siblings overcome our inability to always understand her, by continuing to sign, has been a blessing.  Shea gets a little frustrated at times but is pretty tolerant of our deficiencies.  We are grateful for that and are regularly left to wonder who really is handicapped here.

Shea (and the rest of the family) is a long time fan of Signing Time.  When we moved here from San Diego, our cross country drive required a supply of favorite Signing Time videos.  We were also accompanied by Hopkins who we photographed along the way on our trip, sending the pictures into the signing Time folks after we arrived.

Mom says:

I don’t know what I would have done without Signing Time.  It taught me so much more about communicating with my daughter who was 5 (when we first discovered the videos) than I could ever have learned on my own.  Shea’s always had a hard time communicating (and thus much whining and crying was had by all).  Learning sign language has opened her world to us and helped us to see what is going on inside her little head!  Now that she’s 8, she still has a hard time talking, and we still have to use some signs to help her ‘talk’.  She responds tremendously to using her hands along with saying the words.  When she has a meltdown, I’m usually able to bring her around by using some signs (for talk and words) and saying, ‘I need you to talk and use your words’.

In Shea’s words (written and created by Mom), “Hi, my name is Shea. I’m 8.  I was born with Down syndrome. I have a learning disability and poor muscle tone.  I think this is why I can’t speak very well.  I was so glad when my mom learned about Signing Time.  I was in preschool at the time and knew some sign language that I used with my teachers and classmates.  My teacher told my mom there were videos in the school library we could borrow and when we watched the first one, we were hooked!!  I learned so many new words and signs, my vocabulary exploded!!    Learning signs has changed my life.  I used to whine and cry a lot, but now my Mom asks me to use my words (we learned the sign for word)  and I try to talk better or tell her what I want with my hands. I still have a hard time talking and I can’t wait till I can speak better with my mouth, but until then, I thank God for Signing Time teaching me how to communicate what I’m thinking or feeling or wanting.  Besides teaching me some great new stuff, the movies are so entertaining that my Mom, Dad, baby sister and 13 yr old brother enjoy watching them too!!  We have almost the whole collection now and I still enjoy watching and learning new signs.  My Mom just got me the birthday signing video when I turned 8.  I watch it with my four year old sister and every time Rachel says we’ll see you again soon, my sister says, “No, you’ll see us soon!!” (at the NC Buddy Walk)  We can’t wait!!!

When Grunting and Yelling Don’t Cut It: Unlocking the door to communication

by Cathie Tutka
Raleigh, NC

When Melanie was just over 2 years old, we realized we need to do something to enhance her ability to communicate not only basic needs and wants but to communicate with family and friends. Grunting and yelling was not going to cut it.

Melanie was born with Down syndrome. Speech delays are a common part of Down syndrome.

We heard about Signing Times from other local families of children with Down syndrome. From the set of the first 3 original videos, Melanie has been hooked. Well, all of us in our family have been hooked. These videos are so engaging, fun and entertaining you forget they are actually a tool to help you learn sign language! Once Melanie began watching the Signing Time videos, her sign language vocabulary EXPLODED! She watched them over and over and over. If they had been on VHS she would have warn them out. The rest of us in the family had to work hard to keep up with her expanding vocabulary. We eagerly awaited each new release of videos. Her speech therapist says her signing vocabulary is broader than his. If he can not recall a sign, he will just ask Mel.

Mel is now 6, soon to be 7. As she becomes more verbal, she is less dependent on her signs to communicate. We still use signs to help reinforce something being spoken or to help clarify when her words are not very clear. In some ways, we feel sign language was Melanie’s first language. She still enjoys watching Signing Time videos and even likes watching the show on our local PBS station. We also like to listen, and sign, to the CDs while driving in the car. When ever anyone asks about signing I give them your web site address.

Mel and our whole family are such big fans of Rachel, Alex, Leah and Hopkins. We cannot wait to see them at the Triangle Down Syndrome Network Buddy Walk in a few weeks! I cannot imagine where Mel would be with her overall communication if we had not found Signing Times to help unlock that door to communication! THANK YOU!!

Who Knew Sign Language Could Be So FUN!
by Donna Harvey
Raleigh, NC

Our daughter, Brooke, was born on 7-20-03.  Shortly after her birth, her father and I were told that Brooke had Down Syndrome.   The first few months of her life were filled with learning more about Down Syndrome, what Brooke’s needs would be, and how we could best help her with some of the developmental issues that go with Down Syndrome.  At the same time, her father and I were falling more and more in love with this special little gift that was sent especially for us!  We quickly became fully committed to doing whatever necessary to help Brooke develop into her full potential.

We were told by many that one of the bigger developmental issues for children with Down Syndrome is speech development.  When Brooke was about 11 months old, a very early age, we were encouraged by her first early developmental therapists to begin learning and teaching Brooke sign language.  We were told that sign language would serve as a tool for her to communicate, as well as a tool for her to learn how to talk.  I must admit, the first mention of the use of sign language terrified me.  To think that my daughter would have to rely on only signs to communicate was unsettling to me.  Little did I know how much fun it would become and how much we would come to love and appreciate sign language!

So, after the recommendation was made to teach Brooke sign language, I did the research.  We began to see a private speech therapist, “Dr. Tom”, at the same time.  He  just so happened to have conducted quite a few studies on sign language and the development of speech in Down Syndrome children.  His recommendation was the same….. “start signing…and the sooner the better”.  The facts were pretty compelling, so we slowly started to teach Brooke some basic signs. To my surprise, Brooke quickly picked up on the first signs we showed her:  more, milk, and please.  She would light up like a light bulb when signing to us that she wanted milk!  We had to quickly move forward with this process and introduce more signs.  Brooke, again, picked right up on the signs and began to use them in her everyday activities.  She seemed to quickly understand that every concept had a label and that every concept could even be described with a sign.  She wanted to learn more and more.  She suddenly seemed to realize that this was her connection to the world!  She seem to know that she could not only understand what was being said to her, but that she could respond or add to what was being said too her.  .  I don’t think we even realized how much she wanted that connection to the world until she picked up on the signs and ran with them so fast.  She wanted to know more.

At this point we were introduced to Signing Time.  Brooke would sit and watch the show very intently every Sat. morning.  She fell in love with Rachael, Alex, and Leah!  She would sing and dance and sign all at the same time.  We then googled this group and learned they had a website and several products that would aid in Brooke’s learning.  We ordered DVDs, CDs, and flash cards.  She loved Signing Time and would prefer to watch their DVDs over any other DVD.  Not a day would go by that Brooke would not ask to watch Signing Time (in sign language, of course).  From the television shows and the DVDs, she began picking up signs before her father and I would pick them up. So, we had to be sure to watch the shows and DVDs with her just to keep up with her learning.  She began to teach others her signs.  Her extended family relied heavily on Brooke to show them a sign.  When she began preschool, her teachers would ask me to teach them a few signs to help in communicating with Brooke.  I would show the teachers some of the more used signs, and I would tell them to simply “ask Brooke” if they were curious about other signs they were interested in learning.   One day Brooke brought in her signing flashcards for Show and Tell.  The teachers told me it was the biggest hit all year.  From that day on her teacher would remind me to have Brooke bring in her flashcards on all of her Show and Tell days as the children (who were not special needs) LOVED her presentation and learning the signs.

Soon Brooke’s signs were coupled with words.  Then two signs turned into 2 word sentences.  By the time Brooke was 3 1/2 she was using signs to help her formulate 3 word sentences.

She is 5 years old now and still loves Signing Time.  She depends on signing much less now, but still uses signs for fun.  We still use signs to help Brooke use full sentences.  We have also found that she responds better to a command when using a sign (for example: please).  I think this is because she considers sign language her first language…using sign language is communicating on her turf.

I can’t believe I ever had any reservation about the possibility of Brooke using sign language.  Sign language saved us, and was so much fun to learn and use in the meantime!
Now, after all of these years of learning and using sign language through watching Rachel, Alex, and Leah, we get to meet them.  I have been waiting for so many months to be able to see Brooke’s expression when she first sees them!  This group has been such an important part of her learning and her everyday life for the past 3 years.

I am so thankful for sign language and Signing Time!  Signing Time helped my daughter connect to a very fun and joyful place…the world around her!