"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

Need to change text size? Click one of these:
Small Medium Large Larger Largest

Want to read this post later? Send it to your Kindle reader:

Send to Kindle

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Keith Wann Interviews Rachel Coleman (Transcript)

Keith Wann of Cultural Bridges interviewed  Rachel Coleman of Signing Time Here is the transcript of that radio program.

>> In its quest to provide an open forum for discussion of
controversial issues, this station allows hosts and their guests to
express themselves without any significant censorship. You are
advised that any views expressed by the hosts or their guests are not
necessarily the views of Togi Entertainment or its partners.
>> Yes, indeed, ladies and gentlemen, it's on! It's on like the one
and only Keith Wann!
>> Y'all wave your hands. Look who's on. It's the CODA Man Keith,
and he's Number Wann!
>> Now, you might think Wann's youth was sad, because he had a Deaf
dear mummy and dad. But that ain't the case. It wasn't his fate.
No, the Wanns never struggled to communicate! Wann don't trip, man.
Never had a choice. So he transformed hands right into great voice.
Deaf Brother Wann make many peeps laugh. Now the kids want to get
Wann hot autograph!
> Y'all wave your hands. Look who's on! It's the CODA Man Keith, and
he's Number Wann!
>> Welcome to That Keith Wann Show! Like the song says, Keith's
parents were Deaf, but that hasn't slowed him down one bit. He's a
comedian, writer, ASL expert, and he is the CODA Man. From YouTube to
the movies, Keith Wann is on. And now it's time for That Keith Wann
Show on Toginet.com. Keith is all about building cultural bridges
that enhance understanding and establish trust between communities.
Guests will include ASL performing artists, interpreters, teachers,
and other ASL community members. Listen with an open mind and
willingness to learn, and help with a cultural bridge. It's That
Keith Wann Show on Toginet.com. And now here's your host, Keith Wann!
>> Number, Number Wann. Keith's Number Wann.

KEITH: This is the favorite part of my show where I get to say happy 
birthday. Happy birthday, Marlene. Now that we've got that done, 
Wink, how you are doing?

WINDELL: I am doing well.

KEITH: I am excited. Today is another historical day. As you know, 
we have a guest on our show that I've been working the last two -- 
pretty much I started this show and I had a list of people I wanted to 
get. And our guest today is one of them, as you know. You see my 
board here in front of you.

WINDELL: Your dream board?

KEITH: Is that what they call it? What's a bucket list?

WINDELL: Stuff that you wanna do before you get married, I think.

KEITH: Is it married or died?

WINDELL: I'm pretty sure it's the same thing.

KEITH: I jumped out of a plane. What list is that?

WINDELL: The jumping out of a plan list.

KEITH: You're not... Conan O'Brian has better help. I'm a little 
sad. We're gonna take a break after this show. We're gonna do this 
show and take a couple weeks off, maybe a month off, and then you and 
I are just traveling too much. We don't have time to come in the 
studio here and do the ASL videos.

WINDELL: Yeah. But it does take time to recover after a vasectomy. 
We have to...

KEITH: Is that your bucket list? Nice... Um... We all need goals. 
Oy. So you know... Growing up... You and I are both CODAs. I wish... 
There's things on TV now that I wish we would have had when I was 
growing up. One I think it would have given more credibility to me 
and my parents. I don't know if that's the right word. The right way 
I'm trying to go. Growing up as a kid in the '70s and '80s, you 
know, people back then asked stupid and silly questions. Your parents 
are Deaf? La la la. A CODA who is born today, or who's a teenager 
now... They have so much support out there. They have -- well, one, 
they don't have to interpret for their parents anymore. They have the 
VRS system, they have TTYs, which are outdated, they have the closed 
captions. Everywhere you go. And now on TV, there's programs that 
promote Sign Language. For me, I had, what, Linda Bove on Sesame 
Street. Out of an hour segment, they would fit the Deaf lady there 
for 2 minutes. I always thought... Where's the interpreter? How are 
they able to understand what she's saying? I never could figure it 
out. But I'm excited today to talk with Rachel Coleman from signing 
time. Rachel, how are you doing?

RACHEL: Great!

KEITH: I'm a little sad you weren't around when I was growing up.

RACHEL: Well, I was, but I was growing up too.

KEITH: Couldn't you have had a Deaf daughter when you were younger?

RACHEL: No, I grew up in the '70s and '80s as well. So it took 
time to get married, have kids, find out she was Deaf, and create 
signing time.

WINDELL: Did you do everything on your bucket list before you got 

RACHEL: I did a lot of things on my bucket list before I got married. 
But not all of them.

KEITH: Before we go into Signing Time, let's go into your background. 
I believe you were a music artist first.

RACHEL: Yeah. I'm a singer/songwriter. And I played locally in Salt 
Lake City, performed with a number of bands, went to college to become 
a nurse because I wanted to make a difference and help people, and 
then I dropped out of college to be a musician. Because I'm terrible 
at math. So that all happened. And I gave myself a year after I 
dropped out of college to become a musician. I didn't want to just 
drop out and not... I don't know. I mean, how many people -- everyone 
drops out of college to be a musician, kind of, is the thing. So I 
said I'm only dropping out for a year. And by the end of that year, 
I'd recorded with two local bands, I had my own album, and my band had 
been flown to San Diego to be the pool party band on a Disney special, 
made for a movie.

So by the end of that year, I was like... I'm doing all right. Maybe 
I'll do this music thing.

KEITH: I dropped out of high school to make ASL YouTube videos. Not 
high school. College, I guess.

WINDELL: I dropped out of kindergarten, I think. It was just too 

RACHEL: Perfect. Yeah, not the best. When I tell my kids, I'm like 
-- you know, you don't have to go to college to be successful. And I 
think that's a different conversation than most parents have.

KEITH: I'm sure you know this. But you are like a rock star among 
the signing community. When I announced you were gonna be our guest 
-- we usually announce the guests with two or three weeks' advance 
notice. I just posted this Monday. And Twitter and Facebook pretty 
much just blew up. I got so many emails. You have a huge fan base 
out there. How does that make you feel?

RACHEL: With the internet and just... Everything... You're connected, 
but it's so separate. And really, like, the day-to-day life of 
ours... I just got the girls out the door, and Aaron and I... We're 
hanging out here in the living room. And I put Lucy on the bus. And 
our real day to day life... That stuff doesn't show up. I go to 
Costco, and if I'm in flip-flops and cut offs and no makeup, 
inevitably, someone will come up to me and go... Oh my gosh. Are you 
Rachel Coleman? Note to self. Rachel, it's been 10 years. Put 
makeup on when you go out in public. But it surprises me. I'm always 
shocked when people recognize us. Just completely shocked.

I love it, because there's nothing better than people coming up and 
saying -- wow, you've made this difference. You've impacted our 
child. Or whatever their disability was, that affected communication, 
or they just started signing before they could speak, but... It's such 
an acknowledgment of the long journey, and just the parenting life 
surprises that we've had. It's... I don't think I really grasp how 
vast it is, honestly. I don't think I could. You know? I think it 
would be overwhelming.

KEITH: Right. And I'm serious. If there would have been a program 
like this when I was growing up... I think your program helps... I 
don't know if the world is normalize, but it just... Back then, when 
my friends are asking me all these questions, I could have said -- you 
know what? Just watch this program. And you'll see how normal Sign 
Language is. You made it mainstream. You helped make it mainstream.

RACHEL: Well, thank you. I take it very seriously. Like, it's quite 
a responsibility. And I don't know if people even imagine that. 
Like, before a shoot, I am stressing out. I wasn't even supposed to 
be in the show, number one. Alex and Lia were supposed to carry the 
show. And Alex was 2 when we started filming, and Lia was four. And 
by the time we were done, he had turned 3. And we have an edited 
version where they hosted the show. They were terrible. They were 3 
and 4. What do you expect? They just couldn't model the signs well. 
So really it was signing time with Alex and Lia. That was the 
original show. And when we watched it, Alex is my nephew. Lia is my 
daughter. Lia is Deaf. Alex is Hearing. I'm assuming that not 
everybody knows what we're talking about. So just backing up a little 
bit there. My sister Emily, when we watched the edit -- that's Alex's 
mom. She said you're in the show. I'm like... No, I'm not. I had 
such stage fright. I was horrified at the thought. And she was like 
-- no, you're in. You're Lia's mom. You have to do this. So I came 
in to be the sign model for the first episode. If you saw the 
original episode, where I'm not in orange, I look as horrified as I 
am. Because of the responsibility.

We created it, because... We were frustrated with how few people could 
communicate with Lia. You know? So Lia's Deaf, and we found out she 
was Deaf when she was a year old. And she was being left out more and 
more by the time she was 4 years old. When you're 1 and you're Deaf, 
no one cares. 1-year-olds -- it doesn't matter. You play with 
whoever you're near with. When you're 4 and you're Deaf, it was 
different. As a mom, it was breaking my heart to watch her being left 
out more and more. And I realized that just a couple signs made the 
difference between a child completely writing Lia off and being 
curiously excited to communicate with her.

KEITH: Right. And before we dive into Signing Time -- as a parent 
now who signs, I'm sure you're approached all the time by Deaf people 
who say -- I wished my parents signed. As Wink and I travel around, 
we meet a lot of peopl 
harbor... Certain feelings against their 
parents. Saying they never learned to sign with me. Do you ever get 
asked to speak on that subject? To talk about that? To help convince 
all these other Hearing parents out there to learn Sign Language?

RACHEL: I present and I speak all the time. That's my favorite thing 
to do. And also through my Facebook fan page and through Twitter 
mentor and coach a lot of people, and when I'm doing signing time 
concerts, there's always a meet and greet afterwards. People line up 
and share their stories and ask me for advice. We heard the same 
thing. When we found out Lia was Deaf, we were able to get a Deaf 
mentor, a woman who came to our home 1 to 2 hours every week, and 
teach us ASL. It was voices off, sink or swim. And that was the best 
tool that we were given.

She was a Grandma. Her name was Diane. Her husband was Deaf. Some 
of her grandkids were Deaf. And we were able to ask her everything. 
And she really got us involved in the Deaf community, and as we met 
Deaf adults, that was the recurring complaint. My parents never 
learned to sign. Or if a parent learned to sign, it's the mom. 
Right? The mom learns to sign. And so Aaron and I just jumped in and 
said... Obviously we're both gonna sign. She's our daughter. It's 
not like I'm gonna have a relationship with her and he's not. And it 
was... I can't even tell you how many times in our life we would be 
out and about with Lia, we'd meet Deaf adults, Deaf people, and we 
would ask me and Aaron -- which one of you is Deaf?

KEITH: Hold on. We're gonna take our first break here and when we 
come back, we're gonna talk about this. This is a very important 
subject. And we have a lot of people out there with the potential to 
make young Deaf children. We want them to know how important it is to 
learn Sign Language. When we come back, more with Rachel.

WINDELL: Not before I finish my bucket list.
>> This is That Keith Wann Show! Opening doors, shining the light,
building bridges, educating us all. It's the CODA Man, Keith Wann, and
we'll back with more, right after these!
>> Number, number Wann! Keith's Number Wann! Everybody clap, 'cause
the CODA Man's on. Number, number Wann! Keith's Number Wann! Everybody
clap, 'cause the CODA Man's on.
PAULA: If you were at RID, you saw My Father's Gift, an homage to
Wink's parents, of a time in their life that was very traumatic. But
he now has it on DVD for you to see, with additional footage, not only
of 30 minutes more of the show, but his visit to Minnesota to see the
crash site. It is a moving story, and something you definitely want
to have as part of your library. He also has SEE Me Fail, which is a
comedy DVD that he has produced from his shows in ASL's Comedy Tour.
You've got to get it, because you need the laughs. You can get those
at www.Wink ASL.com.
>> At CEUs On The Go, we are committed to the professional
development of interpreters. As an approved RID-CNP sponsor, CEUs On
The Go provides a variety of services to assist the certified
interpreter in obtaining their CEUs. Our main products are
instructional articles and videos, which are online and on-demand
activities. They can be done from the comfort of your own home, or
during a break between assignments. It's that simple! So check us
out on the web at www.ceusonthego.com.
KEITH: Hey, there. This is Keith Wann. You've seen us on the ASL
radio show, watching the visual videos. You've also heard us,
listening to the audio podcast on iTunes. How about getting us live
to come to your town? The ASL Comedy Tour is sponsored by Sign
Language Access. It's a chance for us to come together and to learn
about the different cultures, using comedy. American Sign Language
will be used on the stage, and also a voice interpreter will be
provided for ASL students to follow along.
WINDELL: And we have affordable packages for you to hire us to come
out and provide this edutainment.
KEITH: What do Keith Wann, Wink, Peter Cook, Crom Saunders, Greg
Spera, Branton Stewart have in common? They've all performed for the
ASL Comedy Tour. Come enjoy a night of comedy and laugh your F-ing
ASL off.
WINDELL: You can't say that!
KEITH: It's a classifier.
>> Y'all wave your hands. Look who's on! It's the CODA Man Keith,
and he's Number Wann!
>> Welcome back to That Keith Wann Show. He's here to help us with a
cultural bridge between the Hearing and the Deaf, with guests from the
American Sign Language community and others who are here to share,
encourage, and to teach. Now let's get back to the show. It's That
Keith Wann Show on Toginet. And here again is your host, Keith Wann.

KEITH: And of course, I want to thank our two big sponsors. Www.ASL 
Legal Shield.com. Worry less. Live more. With affordable legal 
plans. And StenoKnight, www.StenoKnight.com, providing our captioning 
services, and our room. Allowing our guests to participate in the 
show. And I want to do a shoutout. Wink and I are going to be 
hitting the road this week, in Fort Worth, Dallas, and then the 
Lexington School for the Deaf in New York, Friday night, and then in 
Bloomberg, Pennsylvania, doing workshops on Saturday night.

WINDELL: And then we're doing a show in Colorado, near Denver, I 
believe. So if anyone wants to learn more about that, they can go to 
Keith Wann.com. There's a little blurb there for people in Colorado 
to check us out.

KEITH: Thanks, buddy. That's a nice little bucket list.

WINDELL: That's one of them: Promote Keith.

KEITH: Let's get back to Rachel. So before we went into break, we 
were talking about -- when people approach you, and they ask you who 
signs, or do you sign?

RACHEL: Yeah. And, you know, if you don't have a Deaf member of your 
family, I think you assume -- oh, of course if someone is Deaf in your 
family, everyone's gonna sign. I thought that too. When we had Leah, 
I was like... Oh, I'm sure everybody is gonna learn to sign. That was 
a rude awakening. My husband and I learned to sign. And what was 
surprising to us was how many people were shocked that we both 
learned. So when we met Deaf people, they were like -- which one of 
you is Deaf? Neither one. Leah is Deaf. And so they would always 
ask -- why do you both sign? Why on earth would a mother and a father 
sign with their Deaf child? It was almost upsetting how often that 
conversation happened. I was like... What is going on?

So we really got into the world of Deaf people, and what their 
experience was growing up, and that is the experience. If somebody 
learned to sign, it was mom. But a lot of times, nobody learned to 
sign, and they would go to a Deaf institution and sent home to a 
family on the weekends or holidays that didn't communicate with them. 
For me, it was heartbreaking. This is my child. I didn't have a 
child so that somebody else could raise her and teach her things and 
communicate with her. It's the relationship. So of course Aaron and 
I both learned to sign with Leah.

KEITH: Some of the saddest interpreting assignments I had was at 
Thanksgiving, where the family hired an interpreter to interpret the 
family conversations. There was another time on a cruise ship where I 
was interpreting, and the Deaf family member said -- you know what? I 
have all my Hearing family members here. Finally I can give them a 
piece of my mind. They just tore into them. I was like... I need to 
take a break. It was sad on so many different levels.

RACHEL: Yeah. We could see what the average experience had been of 
Deaf American children growing up. So Aaron and I were committed that 
that wouldn't be Leah's experience. I didn't know how we would do it. 
And actually, fairly early on, when we were looking at even preschools 
and the whole bilingual/bicultural movement was starting in a number 
of schools, I was speaking with someone on the board of the school, 
and they were Deaf, and I was complaining about the education of Deaf 
children, and I was like... Why don't Deaf people do something about 

And this woman who was Deaf was like... It's up to you. I'm like... 
I'm just a mom. You are a Deaf person. You've lived your whole life. 
You have the experience. She said... Rachel, they're gonna listen to 
you more than they're gonna listen to me. And it really struck me. 
That was really early on. I don't know if Leah was even two years 
old. And it was... A little confronting. Like... Why me? You know, 
I didn't grow up in this. I don't have the experience. And in some 
ways, it's like... To be the voice for my Deaf child... Okay. I will. 
You know? Especially if the education system isn't preparing them to 
be a strong voice for themselves.

WINDELL: So I can just hear your passion and the things that you're 
saying. What were some of the support systems that your child did 
receive in the school system? You mentioned that obviously you 
learned Sign Language, and that obviously has helped in the education 
process. But was there anything else that the child... That the 
child... Wow. Yeah.


WINDELL: Yeah. That received support through the school system?

RACHEL: The school system was not very helpful in having an American 
Sign Language environment for Leah. It wasn't helpful at all, 
actually. So we decided we were gonna use American Sign Language. We 
had early intervention come in, and they gave us our options and said 
what do you want to do? We were like... We're gonna sign with her 
because she can't hear. It's so obvious. I don't know why people 
struggle with this. Her eyes work, her hands work. She's profoundly 
Deaf. And we don't know if she's gonna talk, so it seemed like a 
waste of time to get her to try to say words. So we started with SEE 
sign, and we didn't understand it naturally. So we just said... 
Forget it. We're doing ASL. And moved on. This is all before she's 
two. And then we found, as silly and obvious as it seems, that a Deaf 
child ought to be in an ASL environment... We couldn't find that in 
our school district.

So, you know, it was total communication. Which is just... You know, 
totally whatever a teacher can do.


( laughing )


RACHEL: Which is a total mess most of the time. Because how many 
teachers can accommodate 15 children in the class and communicate 
effectively with them when they're Hearing, let alone... Some of them 
are SEE signing. You know, right? You're with me?

WINDELL: Love it.

RACHEL: All those experiences. Yeah. So... We went in and just 
decided we'd make sure that she had a Deaf teacher. And then we wrote 
into her IEP that she needed to be in a language rich environment for 
her native language. And everybody was fine signing that. Once they 
signed it, I said -- do you know what that means? She needs two 
fluent signers in the room. This is for a three-year-old, by the way. 
They're like... We don't know how you're gonna get two fluent signers 
in the room. We're like... Well, that's okay. We'll work it out. We 
had a one on one aid and we had her in the classroom with a Deaf 
teacher. That wasn't done for us. We figured out how she can have 
easy natural access to ASL.

WINDELL: I was just gonna say... That's just... Fascinating. Just 
because I have actually been an advocate before, in some IEP meetings. 
And you're absolutely right. The school is very resistant. For some 
odd reason, they do not want to follow a system that you feel is the 
obvious choice. ASL. That a language that the Deaf community has 
invented for themselves. But they would rather go to a system that 
really just bucks the entire... You know, thought process that a Deaf 
person goes through. Just because it's closer to English. It's 
closer to the norm. So I wanna go back a few minutes ago, when you 
said something about SEE. How did you... What was it -- because your 
child was so young, what was it that you realized... You know, this 
doesn't work? It needs to be ASL?

RACHEL: Well, number one, it took forever to sign anything. So SEE 
sign, of course, signing exact English -- she's two years old. I 
would sign Leah... Do... You... Want... To... Go... To... The... 
Store... With... Me... Or -- and I know you guys can visualize this.

WINDELL: I'm signing it right now.

RACHEL: Or... Do... You... Want... To... Stay... Home... With... Dad. 
We're adding on -ing and -ed. And it just took forever to get a 
sentence out. I understand SEE. Why someone thought that was a great 
idea. We'll code English and they'll learn English. It's awesome. 
But it's not. They don't learn English by coding English. It's like 
saying -- well, I'll just say Spanish words in English word order. 
You're not speaking Spanish and you're not speaking English. That's 
the problem. It's easier for a Hearing parent. Because you know 
English and we're just gonna code it. But it doesn't work. The 
moment that it happened, other than us just being exhausted, signing 
these long, long sentences, we were in the front room of our house, 
and there was this good-looking red car out front, and I signed Leah 
-- look at... I started to sign Leah, look at the red car. But the 
moment I signed look in the direction where I wanted her to look, she 
would look. And then I got her attention. I said... Wait. I... 
Am... Not... Finished... Telling... You... What... To... Look... At. 
Leah, look. And she looked again. And I thought about it. And I 
went... Red car look. And she got it. And I got it. I thought... 
This isn't her language. This isn't natural for her.


RACHEL: And we just thought... Make it easy for her. Why do parents 
go around trying to make it easy for themselves? It's already easy 
for us. We're fluent in a language. She's a Deaf child. Let's make 
it easy for her. And maybe we have to stretch ourselves and learn 
something new. But it's gonna be worth it and it's gonna make it 
easier for her to be successful in her life.

KEITH: So those dates I just announced earlier, Wink and I are gonna 
hire you to tour with us. We want you to do the Q and A at the end of 
the show. Your message is the one that we're both preaching too. I 
love it. We have a minute 'til our next break. Why don't we go ahead 
and give out some of your contact information? Your website, your 
blog. My wife is a big fan of your blog. She follows your 
adventures. Strong enough to be. So if you can go ahead and give out 
that information?

RACHEL: Sure. Signing Time and all of our products are available at 
www.Signing Time.com. And my blog is Rachel Coleman.com. You can see 
all of our family wild and wacky travels and adventures. Sometimes I 
get on my soapbox. Speech is a skill. Don't be afraid to sign with 
your children. Just parenting advice and helping to inspire people to 
live bigger than their circumstances.

KEITH: Yay! I try to do a blog and people attack me. You can't do 
it, because you're a performer. Sometimes I just want to be myself 
and I just want to blog about whatever I wanna blog about. So 
sometimes you're a parent, sometimes you're an instructor, sometimes 
you're just... Yeah. It's all over the place. Keep your blog up. 
Like I said, my wife's a big fan of your adventures. We're gonna go 
into the break here. When we come back, we'll dive into Signing Time. 
We'll talk about why does Rachel put tape on her fingers and why Wink 
and I will start doing that this weekend too.
>> This is That Keith Wann Show! Opening doors, shining the light,
building bridges, educating us all. It's the CODA Man, Keith Wann, and
we'll back with more, right after these!
PAULA: Hi, my name is Paula. I'm a trainer and a mentor, and I wanna
tell you about three DVDs that Wink has made that are essential for
your own toolbelt. Idioms: Do You See What I'm Saying, Tangible, and
Blockbuster. They're a trifecta of skill building. They teach you
how to interpret English idioms, those pesky things, into ASL. You
also will learn how to use classifiers in a native signer's way, and
finally, with Blockbuster, you get forced perspective, use of space,
classifiers, eye gaze, all the things essential in looking as near
native as possible. I encourage you definitely to make them part of
your own learning experience, as well as your library, for mentoring
others. You can get them at Wink's website, www.WinkASL.com.
>> If you need realtime captioning for a college class, business
meeting, or cultural event, don't settle for less than a certified
CART Provider. StenoKnight CART Services provides verbatim access for
Deaf, late deafened, and hard of hearing people at up to 240 words per
minute. Specializing in medical, technical, and graduate level work,
onsite in New York City and remotely throughout the country.
Learn more at StenoKnight.com.
>> Do you have protection? I'm not talking about the kind that Wink
needs when he goes on a date. I'm gonna be a little bit serious here.
I'm talking about the one to protect your family and loved ones. Your
identity can be exposed because of information many companies may have
out there. Protect your family now by going to Keith Wann.Prepaid.
Legal.com. All it costs is just less than your coffee at Starbucks a
day. People are getting stressed daily. There's a lot of problems That
we all face in everyday life. And it can be solved by calling an
attorney. I know my attorney is doing something about it. What is Your
attorney doing? If you don't have one, get access to a qualified
Attorney for you, your family and loved ones, and even for your
Business. Call now.             212-920-4985 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            212-920-4985      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      , or again, check us out at Keith.
Wann.Prepaid Legal.com. Get protection.
>> Welcome back to That Keith Wann Show. He's here to help us with a
cultural bridge between the Hearing and the Deaf, with guests from the
American Sign Language community and others who are here to share,
encourage, and to teach. Now let's get back to the show. It's That
Keith Wann Show on Toginet. And here again is your host, Keith Wann.

WINDELL: So, Rachel, you said something that made me honestly go... 
Huh, I liked that. You said speech is a skill. Can you go a little 
bit further on that?

RACHEL: Yeah, I've often joked that my headstone is gonna say -- 
Rachel Coleman. Speech is a skill. And a couple exclamation points. 
It's something that we saw early on with Leah and I'm so thankful we 
saw it. When you're a Hearing parent and you find out you have a Deaf 
child, for some reason, parents get all caught up in the idea that 
they just want their kids to speak. And I don't know why they say 
this, but I can't tell you how many parents of Deaf children said to 
us... I just want my child to be able to order at McDonald's. And I'm 
like... Are you crazy? You want so much more than that. They get so 
caught up in I want my child to talk that they forget that what they 
really want is their child to be a critical thinker, to be able to 
read, to be a contribution to society. You don't just want your child 
to be able to parent and mimic some words. Speech is a skill and they 
have their entire life to learn that skill. You have a window, 0 to 
3, for your child to learn their first language. And if you're 
spending all of their 0 to 3 time working on pronouncing words to a 
language that they can't hear and they don't know and they don't have 
a background for, you're wasting valuable time. Just wasting valuable 
time. 0 to 3 with a Deaf child, you should be signing. End of story. 
You sign with them.

And then, as they get older, and they have their first language, they 
can learn English. But they should learn it as a second language. 
Because they can't hear. They can't hear your language. So I just 
would hear horror stories of Deaf individuals who spent all of their 
waking hours in speech therapy, trying to pronounce words. 
Pronouncing words is overrated, folks. Really. You want 
communication. You want your first language. And you have 0 to 3 to 
get it. So that's my personal soapbox that I really try and get 
people to understand. Speech is a skill. It is one way to 
communicate a language. It is not even a language. English is a 
language. ASL is a language. Spanish is a language. Your child 
needs their first language in the 0 to 3 window. A language. Not 
speech. You have their whole life to learn speech. Don't spin their 
wheels. Don't waste their time. Start signing with your Deaf 
children. Clear?


( laughing )

Yes, ma'am.

KEITH: Very clear. Eyebrows up. Clear?

RACHEL: But it's serious. It's so serious. You end up trying -- 
then they're a late learner, because they didn't learn to speak, and 
finally parents give in and teach them ASL like it's this big failure. 
I don't understand why Hearing parents are so afraid of signing. They 
feel like they're giving up on their child ever speaking. What I try 
to share is -- that's an empowering conversation. You're not giving 
up on your child speaking. They're 1. They don't speak. And at 2, 
in that window, where they're not gonna be speaking anyway, even if 
they're Hearing, for God's sake, sign with them. Communicate with 
them. That's my soapbox. I'll stick to it.

WINDELL: I love it. Do you think it's an emotional thing, where 
parents are... I just want this because and so on and so forth, or 
because they have these dreams of... Having... Hearing the child say 
their first word, mommy, daddy, and so on and so forth, or do you also 
think it's some part of the pathological view or the AGB, the 
Alexander Graham Bell association, and so on and so forth? What are 
the parameters about this?

RACHEL: When you have a child, you expect them to be like you. We 
made a baby. It's gonna be like us. So you find out they're Deaf, 
and it's a completely different experience. You mourn it. Oh my 
gosh, it's not like me. For me, as a musician -- the drama! She 
never heard a song I sung or a story I read! We never found out she 
was Deaf until she was 8 months old. I had been a stay-at-home mom 
for a year. She had never heard a lullaby. That was about me. It 
wasn't about her. I had no idea what it meant for her to be Deaf. It 
was my drama. So I sat there, crying she's never heard a song that I 
sung. And you completely make up in that moment all of these dreams 
that they can never reach. And the bottom line is -- you have no 
clue. It's made up. You're making up a bunch of stuff that your 
child will never do that maybe they will never want to do. It may not 
be a big deal. So as a Hearing parent, you go... Oh, the first word. 
And all the significance. And their first sign -- it's so cool. It's 
way better than their first word. They're communicating at 9 or 10 
months of age. They're not gonna say words until they're one and a 
half. So there's an emotional thing. Wow, they're not like me. And 
you see that from the other side.

When you see two Deaf people who get married, they want a Deaf child. 
You want your child to be like you. You understand your experience. 
You got through it. You can coach them on what you've been through. 
And, you know, when you have a Deaf child, it's surprising, and you 
kind of go... What's the best way to get them to be like me?

KEITH: I'm looking at your list of products here and I'm trying to 
find out... Do you have one just for parents? Called straight talk 
for parents out there? To educate them on how to -- what you did with 
the IEP was brilliant.

RACHEL: Thank you.

KEITH: We need to capture some of this stuff. Every parent, 
unfortunately, has to reinvent the wheel. These school districts -- 
if the parents ever got together and compared notes, the school 
districts would be scared. But they single out parents so it's just 
one parent that they deal with, and they're able to roll over them. 
It's not good, but other parents who get educated and fight for their 
child need the help and need the support. Because that language that 
you used in your IEP was just brilliant. So you need to come out with 
a DVD for the parents to screw the schools over.

RACHEL: We were told by the school district -- you are the only ones 
who want ASL. What's going on? What's wrong with all these other 
parents? So, again, our early intervention told us -- I didn't know 
anything about deafness. Leah was one of the first people I had ever 
met who was Deaf and I had been living with her for a year. That was 
shocking. We said... What can we expect? What does it mean that 
she's Deaf? What can she do when she grows up? She was born in 1996. 
The Deaf people we saw were in airports, handing out the pencils with 
the little paper on them. That was it. So when I said -- what can we 
expect? They said -- statistically, she's gonna graduate from high 
school with a 3rd grade reading level. I'm like... You're gonna 
take her for 15 years and that's the best you can do? I don't even 
know Sign Language and just because I love her and am committed to 
her, I can do better than that. So when the school district said 
you're the only ones who want ASL, I knew we were on the right track. 
They were putting out children who could only read like 8-year-olds 
after high school. I'm like -- good. We're shaking it up. We're 
doing something different. Ideally we'll have a different outcome 
with our child.

KEITH: As a parent myself, now -- before I used to be the bad boy of 
ASL comedy. Now I'm trying to clean up my act so your daughter could 
even watch some of my skits. I have one or two things out that are 
appropriate. So when my children were born -- they're two and three 
now of course. They have Deaf grandparents. We want them to sign. 
And ironically, my son actually goes to a Deaf school. He's Hearing, 
but he goes to a Montessori school that accepts Hearing and Deaf 
children, all who sign. So your product -- one of the reasons I'm a 
big believer is I saw him learn while watching your DVD. It's the 
music, everything on that DVD -- so Signing Time -- again, I'm a big 
fan of yours and your product there.

And we talked about this earlier. In the first segment. About... How 
you accidentally got featured in this. But how did you come up with 
Signing Time? What did you hope to accomplish by creating this?

RACHEL: Leah was four years old, like I said, and we were frustrated 
with how few people could communicate with her. And one day she was 
out on the soccer field at practice, and I was interpreting for her. 
She was the only Deaf kid there. And the coach was teaming up 
children to run some drills, like you do when you're four. What? She 
teamed up this little boy with Leah and he said I don't want to be 
with her because she can't talk and she can't understand me. Mama 
bear came out and I was mad. How rude! I don't want to be with your 
kid because she can't talk and she can't understand me. But then I 
realized he just told the truth. He's saying what's going on here. 
Children don't want to be with her because they can't communicate. I 
wonder if there's something I can do that would make a difference.

So the next week, I called his preschool, and I just said... Hi, my 
name is Rachel Coleman, and I wonder if I could offer a Sign Language 
story time for your preschoolers. I wasn't even Rachel Coleman. I 
was the Deaf kid's mom. They were thrilled. Literacy and language 
and arts -- absolutely. I came in and did that. That was my 
experiment. My little test. And the next week at soccer practice, I 
was out there with Leah and I saw his car pull up and he came running 
up to her and signed friend, play, ball. And I thought... You know 
what? This is it. He has three signs, and that made the difference 
between him being afraid of her and being excited to communicate with 

And that's where the idea started.

KEITH: Wow. We have a minute 'til break. Let me take this 
opportunity to let people out there know that they can actually become 
certified instructors, with the Signing Time academy. Go to Signing 
Time.com/academy. You know, we have 30 seconds. Let's get this 
question in there. Why do you put colored tape on your fingers?

RACHEL: Only 30 seconds? That's not fair. That's like -- Rachel, 
how many orange sweaters do you have? I put the tape on my fingers 
for another level of visual reference for young signers who have never 
signed before. Finger placement. That's the quick answer.

KEITH: I love it. We're gonna go into break now. When we come back, 
our last segment with Rachel Coleman of Signing Time. Wink, you got 
something to say over there?


KEITH: Get the tape off your toes!

WINDELL: Darn it, I put it in the wrong place.
>> This is That Keith Wann Show! Opening doors, shining the light,
building bridges, educating us all. It's the CODA Man, Keith Wann, and
we'll back with more, right after these!
>> Number, number Wann! Keith's Number Wann! Everybody clap, 'cause
the CODA Man's on. Number, number Wann! Keith's Number Wann! Everybody
clap, 'cause the CODA Man's on.
>> We want to welcome Windell Smith, supporter and volunteer of
CODA365. Hello, Windell.
>> Hello.
>> Well, tell us the mission of CODA365.
>> Well, the mission of CODA365 is that we are the children of Deaf
adults, and we want to promote pride in that, in our cultural
identity, and to encourage other CODAs who are children of Deaf adults
to use the native language of their parents. And that's American Sign
Language. American Sign Language is a beautiful language. And it
should be adopted into the family's communication, regardless if the
child can hear or if the child is Deaf. CODA365 is a network. We
want to support all CODAs, regardless of age, to promote education,
awareness, and respect for American Sign Language and the unique
culture that's a major part of our identity. We do that with shows,
workshops -- just an endless amount of resources that we're building
up right now, to provide the support that's needed. For more
information, you can go to CODA365.org.
>> Windell, thanks for being with us.
>> Thank you for having me.
EMILIA: Hi, I'm Emilia Lorenti-Wann, owner of Sign Language Access
incorporated. Do you know anyone who needs Sign Language interpreting
services? Do you need Sign Language interpreting services? Well, if
you do, please visit www.need interpreter.com. We provide certified
Sign Language interpreters for social settings, legal settings,
doctor's appointments, whatever you might have a need for. We also
provide WeeHands, for anyone who wants to learn Sign Language. You
want to teach your baby how to communicate with you? Visit
>> Welcome back to That Keith Wann Show. He's here to help us with a
cultural bridge between the Hearing and the Deaf, with guests from the
American Sign Language community and others who are here to share,
encourage, and to teach. Now let's get back to the show. It's That
Keith Wann Show on Toginet. And here again is your host, Keith Wann.

KEITH: And with me today, I have Wink in the studio. And I have 
Rachel Coleman on Skype. In our West Coast studio. We're that big. 
We're huge. We're huge. So what has been... Talking about Signing 
Time, what has been the Deaf community's response to Signing Time?

RACHEL: It's been, overall, actually, awesome. One of the first 
events I went to was a Deaf expo in California, and I think we had 
three VHS videos at the time. And again, I've always just had this 
concern and respect and -- it's like I don't wanna do anything wrong. 
I don't wanna offend anybody. Really my intention is just to get 
American Sign Language out there, to help the Alexes of the world 
communicate with the Leahs of the world. Leah didn't need it. She 
already was signing. It was putting communication in the hands of 
children who need it. So I'm at this Deaf expo, selling my three 
little videos, and this older gentleman came up to me, he was Deaf, 
and he starts signing -- Rachel, I want to thank you. My 
grandchildren are Hearing. They never wanted to sign with me. 
They've never been interested. I never knew what to do. Grandpa is 
just different. We couldn't ever connect and didn't have a 
relationship, until they started watching Signing Time, and they saw 
children their age using the signs that I use, and they realized... 
Oh, we can do this too. It just closed that gap between me and my 
grandchildren. And I can't thank you enough. And... I was glad that 
was one of our first experiences, because that fueled me. It was 
like... That's what we're doing. We're helping families communicate. 
We're closing the gap between grandpa and his grandkids. Sometimes 
it's Hearing grandpa and Deaf grandkids and sometimes it's Hearing 
grandkids and Deaf grandpa. So overall, the response has been 
overwhelmingly positive.

I mean, the biggest complaint we get is from interpreters, about the 
tape on my finger. And they just don't... It's too distracting. I go 
-- it's okay. I'm not an interpreter. I'm a performer. Keith, I bet 
you do some distracting things when you're performing.

KEITH: I have a hip thrust. Peter Cook and all of my fellow 
performers point out a lot of my mannerisms that are very distracting.

RACHEL: So that's part of performing. It's just part of the thing.

KEITH: I'm laughing. I can imagine a certified interpreter going... 
Okay, I got my linguistics book and my Signing Time DVD. Oh, dear 
lord. Look at the tape? How am I gonna learn signs?

RACHEL: It's true. And you're wearing orange. You should be wearing 
black! Wow. We've had decades of that already. Why not spice it up? 
Going boldly where no other Sign Language program has gone before. We 
did the other thing. It didn't get on PBS and it didn't get on Nick 
Jr. I'm proud of what we've done. It's on people's televisions 
throughout the country. You turn it on and people learn signs whether 
they want to or not. That's my MO. Secretly.

KEITH: Interpreters are not your target market. My three-year-old 
son is. He's learning Sign Language watching your DVDs. Those 
interpreters who criticize your tape... I've gotten their emails too. 
Believe me.

RACHEL: You can't please everybody. What I love is -- my fan base -- 
they are zero to five years old! That's the best fan base to have. 
They love you no matter what. They don't care if you put on 
30 pounds. They just love you. So really -- that's my audience. I'm 
a rock star to preschoolers, and they don't criticize. It's awesome.

KEITH: What's been some of the biggest misconceptions that you've 
come up with, against marketing the show?

RACHEL: That people don't know who it's for. We've looked for 
sponsorship, anything with the Deaf community, they're like -- you're 
not Deaf enough to be sponsored by anything that supports the Deaf 
community. And then I'll have news interviews where people will sit 
there and go... Wait a minute, this isn't just for Deaf kids? So 
that's been the most difficult thing, making it clear who this is for. 
And really who it's for is every child. It doesn't matter if you're 
Hearing or if you're Deaf or you have Down syndrome or autism. Every 
single child can sign before they speak. Why wouldn't you communicate 
with your child before they can talk? Do them a favor and sign with 

KEITH: I'm sure you're aware of the cartoon, the biggest irony. Yes. 
Yes. Yes. That's just unfortunate. I agree. Every child should 
sign. We should pass that law.

RACHEL: Every single one. What's cool about Signing Time is you have 
families who have been signing with us for ten years, and then they 
have a Deaf child. So now these Deaf children are being born into a 
family that's already like... Oh my gosh! Wait a minute. We already 
know this. Really! I get emails, Keith. And that moves me. Instead 
of the drama and the mourning and the upset, they're like... Wow, we 
have a skill already. We can put this in place. We have resources.

KEITH: Wow. So... With this, you've now been able to set up a 
non-profit organization, the Signing Time foundation?

RACHEL: Yeah, the Signing Time foundation. You're traveling the 
globe. As I was listening to where you're going, I'm like... We're 
like ships passing in the night. I have Indianapolis this weekend, 
Bellevue, Washington next weekend, Phoenix and Portland and Boston, 
and so I do Signing Time concerts, partnerships with our Signing Time 
foundation, and I speak to educators and parents and doctors, early 
intervention conferences, and share our story and share this 
perspective. Stop fighting! Stop fighting about Deaf education. 
It's not right or wrong. Every child is different and different 
things work for them. And just really erasing the fear that people 
have about signing. I don't know. It's crazy. They're so afraid of 
signing. It gets such a bad rap. So the Signing Time foundation has 
really created the mission just to put communication in the hands of 
all children. That's it. And so my speaking and my performances, and 
we've gone to Africa three times and worked with Deaf children there. 
Deaf orphans. You think you have it bad here? Hit a Third World 
country and spend some time with Deaf children there. Alters your 

KEITH: And Leah has gone with you to the Africa trips?

RACHEL: Yeah, Leah and Alex came. And when we went, Leah said -- I 
love my country, I love my family, and I love my school. I'm so glad 
to be a Deaf American girl. She really got the resources and the 
amazing life that she has. A Deaf girl in Ghana... That's the lowest 
of the low. You have no rights. None. None. Boys? They had 50 
boys to go to high school, and no girls. Then they changed it. 50 
girls and 100 boys. If someone realizes you're Deaf, they can kick 
you out of a sporting event, even if you bought a ticket. We've come 
so far in the US. We really have come far. It's exciting to be 
involved in Third World countries, where those revolutions, really, 
those Deaf revolutions and the awareness -- it's happening. People 
are realizing... Wait a minute. I just can't hear. That doesn't mean 
I shouldn't have rights and I shouldn't have life and I shouldn't have 
college and training. It's exciting to be there.

KEITH: And, again, I want to remind people -- that's at www.Rachel 
Coleman.com. Where you can look at -- read about the latest adventure 
over there. In Ghana. And there's pictures too. So Signing Time is 
now ten years old. It's been around for ten years. What have been 
some of the highlights? What are the -- some of the funniest moments?

RACHEL: I would say, in the last ten years, the real highlights... 
Being on public television. That's when I was like... Wow. This is 
really... We're creating what I'm up to. When we made Signing Time, 
we thought if we made 100 videos and gave them away to people who knew 
her, we would change her world. We're well above that. We're long 
past that. So being on public television, having music videos on Nick 
Jr. That's just so cool. I was nominated for an Emmy in 2008. That 
felt like a dream. I'm a mom! I did this for Leah. And to get that 
acknowledgment as a performer was amazing. And really I have to say 
the top two were being involved in Mak-a-Wish, granting wishes, where 
a child who... Is... Terminally ill, or is dealing with a real issue, 
their wish is to meet me. And... That is... I can't even tell you. 
That is so humbling.

Like, that's their wish. I want to meet Rachel Coleman. I want to 
come to a concert. Those are the moments that I just go... This isn't 
even a job. You know? And there's nothing else in the world I'd 
rather do with my life than give it to communication and children and 
helping families connect.

KEITH: Absolutely. And Wink and I started a foundation, CODA365.org, 
and it's along your lines. Our whole goal is just to provide access 
to all families, to be able to communicate with each other. And I 
just... You know, I'm very impressed. Signing Time -- you are... 
Yeah, your stuff is now out there. So... It's gonna help future 
generations. It's gonna help people -- if enough people learn Sign 
Language, it's gonna provide more access for my parents and your 
daughter in this Hearing world.

RACHEL: Yep, and that's the bottom line. That is the bottom line for 
me. I mean, I've had -- like I said, the little bits of criticism 
here and there -- people are going -- you're not Deaf. You shouldn't 
be doing this. I agree. I didn't take anything away from someone 
who's Deaf who wants to do it. What I did was I created Signing Time. 
There's still so many things out there that people can create that 
will make a difference. And I urge you, go do it. If you see the 
opportunity where you can make the difference, don't just complain 
that someone else hasn't done it yet or don't complain about what 
someone else did create. Create what you need. Create what will 
alter your family. And you might be surprised. It might also alter 
the world.

KEITH: Absolutely. We have a few minutes left in the show. I want 
to get your contact information out there again. Do you want to share 
your Facebook and Twitter too?

RACHEL: My fan page on Facebook is Rachel Coleman. I've got the tape 
on my fingers. I'm the only one. Face book/Rachel Coleman. And on 
Twitter it's ST underscore Rachel. People think it's St. Rachel. 
Believe me, it's not. It's Signing Time Rachel. All our products are 
available at Signing Time.com, and you can check in with us and see 
what we're doing. And my family and around the world and all the 
events and all of that at Rachel Coleman.com.

KEITH: Thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.

RACHEL: This was the shortest hour of my life. This was really fun. 
You guys were great.

KEITH: We'll have you back on. Wink has a couple of ideas he wants 
you -- a couple of panels he wants you to be on. Thank you so much.

WINDELL: It really was fun. Thank you so much.

RACHEL: It was great. Thanks.

KEITH: ASL nation, thank you very much. This has been a fun two 
years. We're gonna take a hiatus. We'll keep you posted on Keith 
Wann.com. Thanks, everybody. I appreciate your support. My name is 
Keith Wann.

WINDELL: Good night, Douglas. And... Don't you... Oh, okay. All 
right. Good night, everybody. See you in a few months.
>> Y'all wave your hands. Look who's on! It's the CODA Man Keith,
and he's Number Wann!
>> Now, you might think Wann's youth was sad, because he had a Deaf
dear mummy and dad. But that ain't the case. It wasn't his fate.
No, the Wanns never struggled to communicate! Wann don't trip, man.
Never had a choice. So he transformed hands right into great voice.
Deaf Brother Wann make many peeps laugh. Now the kids want to get
Wann hot autograph!
>> Y'all wave your hands. Look who's on! It's the CODA Man Keith,
and he's Number Wann!
>> Thank you for being a part of That Keith Wann Show on Toginet.com.
Join us every Wednesday evening at 8/7 Central for more from that CODA
Man, Keith Wann. Keith is all about building Cultural Bridges that
enhance understanding and establish trust between communities. Keith
will have guests on each week, sharing their experiences, expertise,
opinions, and personal lives with all of us to help us understand
others. The topics and guests will come from the American Sign
Language community or outsider guests who can share information
bringing more awareness that can benefit us all. Guests will include
ASL performing artists, interpreters, teachers, and other ASL
community members. For more information on Keith and the show, go to
his website: KeithWann.com. Then join us here again next week and
listen with an open mind and willingness to learn, and help with that
cultural bridge. It's That Keith Wann Show. Wednesday nights at 8/7
central on Toginet.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment