Monday, September 25, 2006

Standing in the Shadows of Maya and Miguel

I I attended an event this morning at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulpher, Oklahoma. This was a screening of Maya & Miguel, a popular PBS Kids series that is introducing a new character, Marco, who is seven years old and deaf.

The 30 children who were in attendance were awesome – and talk about inspirational. When they saw Marco, the little cartoon character, using American Sign Language they just lit up and were so genuinely excited they could hardly sit still. How neat for these little kids to identify with a cartoon character who is like them!

I learned how to say “friend” and “thank you” and of course I signed my name. The hands of these little kids were just flying throughout the whole event. Some of the older kids could read lips – a skill that amazes me.

All of the children in this state school live on campus, Monday through noon on Friday. At noon on Friday they are bussed back to their families, all across the state, for the weekend, then back again Sunday night. That’s got to get a bit tedious for those kids who live clear across the state. We found out that many of these children first came to the school when they were 18 months old. Can you imagine the sacrifice and anxiety that some parents probably felt about leaving their babies at an “institution”? But the principal told me that language skills are developed at these youngest ages, and for the deaf kids to be as totally independent as their hearing siblings they need to start working with them at 18 months. I really admire the dedication and love that these parents and professionals bring to their work.

After the screening, the costumed characters came out and the kids were thrilled to get their pictures taken with Maya and Miguel. It was so neat watching these children express their joy through their sign language and not with their voices.

These are the times when I am most proud to work for PBS.


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