I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support you have given to Changing the Face of Beauty! We have over 20 business owners interested in being a part of this amazing opportunity to include all individuals in the advertising of small businesses and that number is climbing. We could not be more thrilled about this opportunity! Over 300 people shared that post, so please keep it going!! You can find it here, if you missed it on Wednesday. Click that share button so that we can integrate as many amazing individuals as we can!
As you can imagine I have been trying to answer all emails and inquiries about “Changing the Face of Beauty” and in the mean time keep up with 6 wild and crazy kiddies. They keep me grounded and remind me how important they are to me! I love summer and I love the beach. We opened the summer season today and wow was it good.
To top it off Baby Sofia went home to her forever family Thursday…..what a blessing!
What a fantastic week it has been…..
Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing you to a Mama of 2, Monica Blouin. I know you will enjoy her story and if you are looking to teach yourself or your children sign language she is your gal!
1/ How did your daughter Madie change your life?
I had wanted to be a mommy since I was young and I was already a mom to my two step-sons. But I had always wanted to experience pregnancy and to raise a child from birth. Unfortunately the road was long and difficult to become a mommy. So when I got pregnant with my Madie and we made it past the 1st trimester and the 20 week ultrasound showed no indication of any problems, I finally felt like it was going to happen. But God had a different plan for me and for my future. He gave Madie to us with an extra 21st chromosome. At first I was completely devastated and scared and I felt completely unprepared for how I was going take care of her. I had a lot of emotions in the beginning most of them based out of fear and guilt but I knew I had a job to do to take care of Madie. Here she was, this amazing little lady with a smile that made everyone in the room take notice. I always said that her “Light was on” and for those of you who have not heard that term used before, it means that “God’s light shines through her”. She is my very own special gift sent directly from God to our family and she changed life for all of us. She is so loved and she brings such happiness and joy to our lives that we could not imagine our family without her. We are happy that God made her the way he did. She is a blessing beyond words. Having children changes your life, but having a child with special needs really puts you on another path. I would not know so many wonderful people today if it were not for Madie. She has brought so many people into my life who have changed my life for the better. As of last year Madie was the inspiration for me to start my own Sign Language business to help children communicate.
2/ What made you decide to sign with your daughter?
I did a lot of research about Down syndrome after Madie was born to educate myself and to care for her. I kept seeing research that showed that sign language was being used to help bridge the communication gap to aid with the speech delays that most children experience with Down syndrome. I was interested in sign language as a young teen so I figured that it was a great idea, it was practical and it would be fun for us to learn it together. It made sense to give my child all of the opportunities that I could to help her communicate. I can’t change the fact that she has Down syndrome, but I could provide her with a way to express herself and for her to be understood. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to want your family to understand your needs and not being able to express yourself. I ultimately made the right choice early on to start using sign with Madie since now as a 5 year old, her speech is significantly delayed. By teaching her sign language as early as we did, we gave Madie invaluable communication skills. She knows over 400 signs and she uses sign to communicate daily. She will use it for fun like when we go to the zoo and she signs all of the animals or she will use it to communicate to me what she wants to eat for lunch and for when it is time to use the potty. Signing is a part of our daily routine and it has been a lifesaver when it comes to trying to figure out what your child wants or don’t want. Sign Language has given Madie a voice and it has empowered her.
3/ When did you decide it would be effective to sign with your daughter?
The Early Intervention Program is a Birth to age 3 program and Madie started therapy services immediately after birth. So, I knew that the earlier I started signing the better. Again, all of the research showed me that children who were taught at an early age how to sign had higher IQ’s and increased vocabulary. So, if sign language was benefiting children in such a positive way, why not give it a try for Madie. The benefits seemed obvious to me and since I already thought it was fun, I figured it was a great way for us to help Madie communicate. So, in short, I started to teach Madie sign language at about age 3 -4 months. She responded to it immediately and we were having fun. You can start using sign language at any age since it is so easy to learn. I recently taught my Mother in law a few key signs since she suffered a stroke that affected her ability to speak. Who would have thought that a 64 year old woman would develop the need for sign language? You don’t have to learn the entire American Sign Language in order to use sign to communicate. Just learning a few simple signs can help you out more then you know.
4/ Did you sign with your son?
My son Jack is 3 years old. He is typically developing. I decided during pregnancy that I would sign with him since we were already a signing family. I started to sign with him the day I brought him home from the hospital. He was always present when I was signing with Madie, so he was exposed since birth. I can’t say for certain that sign language is the reason, but Jack is EXTREMELY verbal and he was using full sentences very early. His speech skills are very advanced and he hit his milestones very early. I thought it was just that we were very chatty parents so genetically Jack was chatty too. That might be the case or maybe sign language has something to do with it. I can’t say for certain, but all I know is that Jack knows hundreds of signs and his communication skills are notably higher than his peers. Jack also tends to be the sign language interpreter and Madie’s interpreter when we leave the kids home with a babysitter. If Madie is signing for cookie or cracker or milk and the word is not clear to the sitter, Jack will jump in to interpret and let the sitter know what Madie is requesting. Jack also has shown early literacy skills and he knew how to sign the alphabet and count very early.
5/ What made you decide to start sharing your sign experience with others?
I was working in the corporate world at a Law Firm in the City of Chicago building database systems and I was miserable. I worked very long hours and I felt like I was not raising my kids and spending enough time with them. I experienced a bad case of “burn out” and I knew it was time to find a new path. I decided to take the test Signing Time offers to become an instructor one afternoon while Jack was taking a nap and Madie was downstairs laughing, singing and signing to Signing Time. The test was a breeze since I was already signing for over 4 years. I made the final decision to become an instructor after meeting Rachel Coleman and her sister Emilie Brown who are the creators of Signing Time. After much prayer and soul searching and consulting with my family members, I decided to take a leap of faith and start my own business. I was scared to end my corporate career, but I knew that God had a different plan for me. There was a reason that Madie was given to me and I wanted to see where this could take me.
I lived everyday and experienced first-hand how sign language affected my daughter and how it empowered her with communication skills and I just knew that I wanted to help other families who were facing the same challenges I was facing.
6/ Tell us about Signing times.
Signing Time is an amazing company run by amazing people. They do their homework and they conduct business with their hearts and souls. They are wonderful advocates for all children, but they have a special connection with children with disabilities. Rachel Coleman and her sister Emilie Brown created Signing Time with the help of their family members all because Rachel’s daughter was born deaf. For over 10 years now, they have been creating amazing products that help children communicate and have fun. I could not and would not have created my own business using sign language if it were not for them. The determining factor for me to start a sign language business was after meeting the creators in person last year. These were people who understand what it is like to have a child with a disability and it shows in the quality of their work. I was so impressed with who they were as people and as a company that I felt this was the right path for me to bring Signing Time to the Southwest side of Chicago. I felt so strong about this that I took it a step further and I have coordinated the appearance of Rachel Coleman at this year’s 10th Anniversary of the National Association of Down Syndrome Chicagoland Buddy Walk on October 14 in Wheaton. IL. My daughter got to meet Rachel Coleman in person last year and that was an experience for both me and my daughter that I will never forget. That experience and the look of amazement and joy on my daughter’s face for the few hours that she got to be with Rachel is what prompted me to bring Rachel to Chicago to perform and meet her Chicago fans. I just know that the Signing Time fans will have an unforgettable experience when they get to watch Rachel perform and then get to meet her in person. Rachel is one of the best advocates and “therapists” that I know of when it comes to helping children learn how to communicate. I can’t say enough good things about what Signing Time and Rachel Coleman have done for my family and my daughter. They are good people who do good work and when it is all said and done, they are just like us: Parents who are trying to make the world a better place for our children. They have my deepest respect and I am honored to be affiliated with them.
You can reach Monica at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org cell: 312-656-3046. Facebook: Lil Miracles Sign Language Academy.
The weekend is here and I am gonna enjoy it! Be good to one another as Ellen always say….be kind.