The Evolution of Rachel Coleman

I have this whole serious post ready for you about why we are not on public TV anymore, but I just can’t bring myself to post it and especially NOT today!

Because: (cue music) “Today is a special day a special day it’s true, we celebrate the happy day that I became me!”
Well the lyrics don’t work so well in the first person… which is exactly why I did not write that song with lyrics in the first person… See, I am quick like that!

Yes, 34 years ago today, October 9, 1974 – I was born: Rachel Lee de Azevedo. The fifth child of Lex and Linda de Azevedo.

The Evolution of Rachel Coleman
I doubt there was much fanfare, outside her own family. Her mother’s mother came to town and stayed with the family to help care for her daughter and this new granddaughter. Little did the world know what spirit had just been unleashed upon it. Little did her parents know.

This little girl, shy and quiet in the tumultuous chaos that would become a family of 9 siblings, was NOT the “squeaky wheel,” no. She was silent and observant. She didn’t ask for what she wanted because there were so many other children and she knew that many of them would ask.
She didn’t ask for the things she wanted and because she didn’t ask, she didn’t get them.

Little Rachel

All smiles

She didn’t find her voice until she was 17. She found her “angry voice” first. Like when Mrs. Potato Head packs her husband’s “angry eyes” in Toy Story II. Her family was shocked to hear this voice, shocked not only at the upset but also shocked at hearing a voice from someone who had up until that point refused to sing.

Rachel de Azevedo – We The Living: HEAVEN HELP ME

She found love, got married, becoming Rachel de Azevedo Coleman and had her first child, Leah. One year after her daughter’s birth she took a personal vow of musical silence, at age 24, upon discovering her daughter was deaf. Like all things, this silence lasted… until it ended.

The silence ended when she was 28. Her second daughter Lucy, then 2 years old, was wrapped in a blanket on the floor, Lucy’s physical disabilities, cerebral palsy and spina bifida, kept her trapped in her own silent world. The problem felt very familiar. The circumstances did not. There happened to be a guitar in the room. This time, she heard a voice of inspiration. It started with this simple phrase: “How are you doing little one? I’d like to know what’s on your mind” and ended with this plea: “Show me a sign!”

Rachel Coleman: SHOW ME A SIGN

She now had a story to tell.
She now had a message to deliver.

The message to children: “You are perfect, exactly how you are!”
The message to their parents: “You are not alone.”
The message to professionals: “Do not limit us with labels.”
The message to the world: “Communication does not delay communication.”

She discovered she had a powerful voice, a silly outfit, yet a powerful voice in the world and for the world. A voice that is a stand for children, children who may feel like they don’t fit in, maybe they are shy or quiet, maybe they feel lost in the noise. A voice for so many children who feel that they cannot have what they want and are too afraid to ask, or maybe they just don’t have a way to ask at all.

Then one day she turned 34. It was to be the best year of her life. No, everything was not perfect, but it was. There would be disappointments as well as wonderful surprises. There would be new friends and old. Best of all, after 17 years of music, there are still new songs.

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About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: ASL Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old.

60 thoughts on “The Evolution of Rachel Coleman

  1. Happy Belated Birthday Rachel! Loved your story – and we love your family and SigningTime – it has been the biggest blessing in our lives – thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  2. WOW! My birthday is 10/9 also! I know that’s a good thing. 🙂 HAPPY BIRTHDAY! AND thanks for all you do!

    p.s. do you ever look like your mom!

  3. Happy birthday! My children hear, but Signing Time has been a great help to my toddler. We just love to watch you, Alex, and Leah. My littlest is learning to talk now, but knowing signs has been a great help. Thank you.

  4. Happy Birthday Rachel!!! You are amazing and have touched so many lives- including my family’s. Kylinn has grown up with BST & ST, and at 27 months still udderly adores it. You, Leah, Alex, and Hopkins have been a big part of her life! And you helped give her the precious gift of communication from a very early age. Her signing exploded at 11 months and so did her verbal skills. Everywhere we’d go, people were so impressed by her abilities. By 2 years old she was using 6-8 word sentences. Her vocabulary is ever-growing. She can hear a big word once and use it correctly. She has never had a tantrum, there hasn’t been a need to. We taped her awhile ago signing, it’s on YouTube under Kylinn’s Signing Time Skills! We are so very proud of her. 🙂
    We appreciate all your hard work. I’m so glad, after making the vow of silence, you decided to sing again. With that one choice you have impacted sooooo many lives. You and your family are such an inspiration, thank you for sharing your story and creating Signing Time!!
    With Love and Gratitude

  5. Chrysta: That is very sweet. You are welcome.

    justmebethz: You are NOT alone. We are all parents on the path.

    mom2wondertwins: My children have also given my music such greater purpose. I am the luckiest momm!y

    JLD4my3: It is incredible to me that there are children who have grown up on Signing Time.

    Sadly, Leah has had so much purple without choice, that she pretty much refuses to wear purple now.

    Right now I do not have anything booked in AZ, but as you hear of events in your area, you can always suggest they get in touch with me to speak or perform.

    Veronica: My multi-tasking only looks easy from a distance. Those close by see me dropping plates and burning dinner all too often 😉

    Ellen: I have a fan!! A music fan, no less!

    I’m glad you found us when you did, how fantastic that you had already been signing when your second daughter came along!

    Angels_Pop: You are right, nobody would know 😉
    I do find myself laughing about the professor comment, often.
    Thank you for the birthday wishes.

    mum2brady: I am so glad you feel blessed by what we are able to share.

    gertyp: If you think I look like my mom, you should checkout our voices and mannerisms. They are identical!

    Lorren: Yay! Thanks for signing with us.

    proudmamaofKylinn: Sounds like she is one very smart little girl! Isn’t it great that you KNOW how smart she is? Keep up the good work.

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  7. Hey Rachel-I just wanted to tell you thank you! I have a 20mth old who has been talking VERY WELL since she was about 13mths old. I started signing to her when she was just a couple of mths old. I started with “milk” showing her the sign while she was breast feeding. Then it was “tree” when we would go for a walk, then “mommy&daddy” and so on and so on. For the longest time she would just sit there and look at me and I almost gave up when she showed me HER first sign….it was “tree”! I then started to look for signing videos for her. I found one…a Baby Einstein…and it was great! She loved it! Then when she was about a year old we happened to find YOUR videos! WOW…WOW…WOW!!!! We ALL loved them, they are so great, those songs just stay in our heads all day and I find myself singing them out loud to her all the time when we are not watching your videos. Whenever we are in the car and she is upset I play “Teddy had a hard day” and as soon as she hears that song she stops crying! Your videos are SO great Rachel! After watching your videos for only a few days she started signing 1 and some times even 2 new signs a day!! We only had the first 2 videos in the Baby Signing Time series and she knows every sign in those videos! We just got video 3&4 and they’re great. She now knows well over 50 signs and she just keeps on learning! THANKS RACHEL
    Steffanie & Elizabeth

  8. You and my mother share the same birthday. You and I share the same birth year. I’m riding the tail-end of 39 now! I want to write more, but will have to set aside some time later…
    Just want to say “Thank YOU!” for “Signing Time”. It has blessed our family in ways you can’t even imagine… <3

  9. Happy Belated Birthday, Rachel Coleman. Thank you for telling your story and sharing your knowledge to the world. I discovered I had genetic hearing loss at 29 so I was interested in learning sign language. When I finally had my miracle baby, you provided me an easy way to learn ASL with my child. At 14 months my baby was able to communate to me using over 80 signs. At 15.5 months she was able to say and identify most of the alphabet and their phonetic sounds. Now at 18.5 months, she’s starting to say full sentences. I owe it all to your programs. Thank you so much. She is a happy baby and I know it’s because you helped give her a voice.
    Wishing you all the best,

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