I have known Sammi for 10+ years and I love her dearly - but as a house guest, I have to be honest - she's pretty shocking. She leaves her undies from one end of the house to the other, can't wash dishes to save herself, would rather starve than set foot in a kitchen, stirs the girls up at the most disruptive times possible, is demanding, bossy, more stubborn than the three Kewl girls put together and is constantly finding new ways to annoy the *bleep* out of "hearing people".
Did I mention that I love her dearly? ... I know - Go figure!!!
Another thing about Sammi is that she speaks with her hands. Literally, I mean. Sammi is deaf and uses AusLan (Australian Sign Language) to communicate. She doesn't speak verbal English, but she silently mouths words as she is signing, she can read lips and write about a million words per second!! Her deafness is just one part of who she is though, and by no means does it define her.
As a diverse ability advocate myself, one of the reasons why I keep Sammi around is so the Kewl girls can benefit from her diversity. Lucky for Sammi (she ate the last of my chocolate yesterday and was very nearly thrown out of the house immediately!!), the Kewl girls are benefitting from her presence in even more ways than I imagined they would.
Upon adopting Aunty Sammi, one of our favourite expressions became, "Read my lips!"... Because, well - she does.. And the Kewl girls find statements of the obvious absolutely, hysterically funny. I found it quite amusing myself! I also quite enjoyed being able to mouth things to Sammi without actually speaking them, and so being able to have 'adult' conversations with the girls in the room. Kewl, right?
Well, yes - but this is where the 'diversity benefit' comes in.
Yesterday, Mary Poppins and I were talking when Miss J came over to sit with us. Mary wanted to say
Miss J rolled her eyes, and said, "I can read lips, you know. And that's not a good word choice, Mary."
Thinking that this was a fluke - more of an educated guess than a lip reading ability - I silently mouthed to Miss J, "Oh really?"
To which she replied, "Yes. Really."
It's not just Miss J, either. Both of her sisters appear quite capable of reading lips - and I am absolutely blown away by it!!! They can all speak Sign well, but as I have used signs with them all of their lives this isn't really surprising. Lip reading though - that's a whole other story!
I always assumed that lip reading was a difficult skill, learned over a period of years, in a class room or 'speech therapy' setting. When I expressed my amazement to the girls and asked them how they'd learned to lip read, Miss F replied, "Oh mum! It's easy! Sammi does it all the time." This makes me think that maybe my assumption has a lot to do with why I am (as yet) unable to read lips!
To help the girls develop their lip reading abilities, Sammi suggested I speak the first part of a sentence (audibly) in order to give them a context to work from, then finish off mouthing the sentence (silently). We have been doing this with much success ever since!
Although I am a big believer in the Kewl girls' learning ability, I have to admit that my amazement played a trick on my mind and had me thinking that maybe the girls were really just very good at guessing. I decided to 'test' this thought this morning and in response, Miss V essentially threw it back in my face.
When it was time for breakfast, I said to her (audibly), "Miss V, could you come to the table please, (then silently) it's time for dinner."
She laughed and replied, "No mum, it's time for breakfast."
Then as an afterthought, she added, "You're not very good at lip speaking, are you mum?"
Touche, Miss V.
So, as much as Sammi did the unspeakable, and ate the last of my chocolate - in light of the most incredible ways in which she is enriching our lives - I think we'll keep her.
(But Sammi, if you ever put your hands near my chocolate again - read my lips woman - I know where you live.)