Soham was born in Toronto, Ontario in 2008. His birth parents were unable to care for him due to his many medical needs and diagnosis of Down syndrome. He spent much of his early years in and out of hospitals and foster homes. When he was three years old he was moved into the group home where I worked. He was unable to express himself through verbal communication as his many medical needs had been more of a priority over anything else. He often became frustrated and would hit people because was trying to communicate but had no tools to do so.
I took it upon myself to get some books from the library on American Sign Language (ASL) and to start teaching him the signs for animals (something he loved). He picked them up right way. His first sign was “moose” soon after he could sign “monkey”, “fish”, “elephant”, “pig”, “dog” and so many others. He was so happy that he was able to communicate with me about the things that he loved! I knew I was going to have to learn sign language.
I took to the internet to research where I could learn. I quickly came across WeeHands and took all of the online classes. I was amazed at how quickly he was learning to sign! At times he knew more signs than I did. He would sign something and I would have to look it up. I continued to learn and build vocabulary based on things he was learning at the time, potty training and feeding, playing, etc.
Soham is now seven years old and is starting to communicate using sign language to form complete sentences, “I want __________ please mommy” “Thank you for __________ mommy”. Another important thing to note is that when Soham signs, it slows down his thought process and he is able to say the word as he signs it. It is not always clear but he definitely tries to verbalize every word he signs.
I can’t imagine where we would be today without ASL. Thank you WeeHands for giving my family the tools to communicate with our sweet little boy, Soham!
Sheena Lane is Soham's mom and is now also a WeeHands Instructor teaching in southwestern Ontario. Since 2001, WeeHands has been an industry-leading children's sign language and language development program delivered through interactive, fun classes, as well as a line of tailored products. In 2014, WeeHands became part of Morneau Shepell’s Children's Support Solutions, an organization that provides health-centered and educational services to children with differences to help them reach their potential.