When Shaylee Mansfield took a trip to Disneyland, she didn’t expect Tinkerbell or Minnie Mouse to speak her language. Like her mother and father, Shaylee is deaf. But what happens will totally blow your mind!

In Australia one child each day is identified as hearing impaired, according to the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. That said, deafness isn’t something that always has to isolate the child. In Shaylee’s case, she was able to communicate comfortably with other kids her age every day at school.

Shaylee attends a specialised school for deaf children, where signing is part of normal daily life. Whether she’s at home or at school, Shaylee’s able to communicate and understand what others are saying around her.

But, what happens when Shaylee leaves her home or isn’t at school? Even though those close to her know how to sign, plenty of people she comes in contact with don’t. This leaves this little girl out when it comes to everyday interactions that might seem simple to the rest of us.

Part of Disney Parks’ “Unforgettable Stories,” Shaylee’s video shows the magic that happens when someone special takes the time to learn how to sign. Three years ago Shaylee visited Disney, getting the chance to meet the spritely Tinkerbell. Imagine her surprise (or, just watch it in the video) when Tinkerbell turns to her and signs her name.

In the video Shaylee says “When I was growing up, I never expected anyone to sign.”

(story continues after the video)

While that was the world she grew up in, Shaylee’s world isn’t exactly the same. Yes, there are plenty of times and places where no one else knows how to sign. Disney isn’t one of them. Fast-forward three years after the Tinkerbell experience, and Shaylee is back at the park. Minnie Mouse is with her, asking, “What’s your name?” Does Shaylee understand her? Of course! Why? Because Minnie is signing. Shaylee signs back and Minnie replies, “I’m learning how to sign.” Shaylee’s dad points out, “You see, she’s learning.”

In an interview her dad notes (of meeting Minnie), “It made her proud of her own language.” How true! Sign language is as it says – a language. Think about the effort that we make to learn spoken languages. Whether it’s in school, for a job or for our own enjoyment, we take classes, listen to tapes and get tutored in plenty of world-wide languages. But, where does that leave sign language? Australia alone has more than 12,000 children with hearing impairments. Shouldn’t those children have the right to communicate with the outside world? The ability to use and understand sign language provides both deaf and hearing children and adults with the chance to interact, communicate and stop isolation.

Not only are Shaylee and her family featured in this heart-warming Disney clip, but they also have their own YouTube channel (ASL Nook). Watch Shaylee, her mom, her dad and her sister sign – and learn about her language. You can also check out the ASL Nook Disney video, featuring signs for some of your child’s favorite characters (and glimpses of the princesses!). The videos go above and beyond simply teaching signs. They also provide a peek into what Shaylee’s life is like and how a deaf family uses sign language in much the same way that you use spoken words!

 

Author

Belinda's a passionate advocate for community and connection. As the founder of the Mum Central Network she’s committed to celebrating the journey that is Australian parenthood. Mum to two cheeky boys, and wife to her superstar husband, they live a busy but crazy lifestyle in Adelaide. Great conversation, close friends and good chocolate are her chosen weapons for daily survival. Oh, and bubbles. Champagne is key.

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