We returned to speech therapy today after a three-week hiatus. Last day of school was a half day, then Joey had two weeks of camp that interfered, and there was no day to do a make-up. The appointments went OK. Joey had a few minutes of not so good, but they both got done what they needed to get done, so we'll call it a win and see them next week.
As I was waiting for them, a gentleman came in to make an inquiry about his own appointments. As I have a hard time blocking out voices, I soon learned that he was deaf, and was there to help with his speech so he could better communicate with hearing people. I smiled politely as he turned from the window and sat down to await resolution of an issue, and he smiled back, and we returned to ourown activities.
Then Andy came out, and his therapist told me he had done a great job. Out of habit, and as part of his praise, I signed to him, "good job." The gentleman perked right up, and caught my eye; he asked if Andy was deaf. I felt a bit awkward, as I suddenly could not put together the signs to tell him that we use signs to support speech, but I did manage something (and fortunately, the gentleman was very good at reading lips, and could fill in for my not-so-great signing). I think I signed something to the effect of not-deaf-signs-learn-talk. Yeah, not a great performance, but I find it really hard to sign and speak at the same time- and the gentleman figured it out.
Then Joey bobbed out. He realized I was signing, and the man was signing, and I said something like, "Joey, this gentleman signs!" and Joey was so excited! He turned and started a little conversation while his therapist tried to tell me what he worked on today. I know the gentleman asked Joey's name, and Joey asked his, and then there was something about orange- not sure if it was the fruit or the color. About halfway through, Joey turned and sang with great enthusiasm, "he really can't hear me!" and I managed to sign (and I am a terribly slow fingerspeller) that Joey is autistic, but I was pretty sure whatever Joey was signing to him probably seemed as random as Joey's conversation openers are to most everyone.
I will never be able to thank that gentleman enough for his patience with us. He was totally awesome. I am totally writing a note to take with us the next time we are up by the speech office to thank him, and let him know how happy he made Joey.
Joey was so excited that he actually could talk with the man, even though the gentleman could not hear him. In fact, he was so excited, he talked about it all the way home. I might even take him over to the local Deaf club, which meets once a week (they welcome hearing people who are learning to sign to join them). If Joey can handle the social part, I think he would really like it now.
Even Andy, who has been a bit put off by the signing lately, went over and seemed interested.
I want that gentleman to know what he did for us, because we certainly know what it is like to be a "teaching moment" for others, and know it can be uncomfortable. And whether he was comfortable or not, I just think he ought to know he gave somebody some joy just by being himself, and being there. People need to know those things. And maybe the next time we see him, we'll have some more conversation. After all, that's how friendships start.