Born This Way

When we found out that our one-year-old daughter was deaf, we made up a lot of stuff about what that meant for her and for us. It was TOTALLY made up; only, we didn’t realize it at the time. One of the things I decided was that I could no longer do music (I hope you are giggling). At the time it was a serious choice and I felt like it was a waste of time to spend hours and hours each week working at something and creating something that I believed my deaf child could not access. Sometimes, we react and jump to conclusions that have no basis in reality! Really!

When I wanted to sell my guitars, Aaron had the good sense to suggest I just store them under the bed. In 1997 I never would have believed it if someone had said that because of Leah’s deafness I would write over 100 songs and that this same child would be signing along with my music in the backseat of our car… and on stage!

Look at where we have come in the last 13 years since discovering Leah’s deafness. The truth is, I had no clue what her deafness meant for her future. I still don’t. But, I do know that life constantly surprises me and I even surprise myself at times.

This I know for sure, my children surprise me most. I really cannot watch the following clip without getting teary, because Lady Gaga’s lyrics are so apropos. Leah was born deaf, she was also born with music in her blood. She was born this way.

Here’s another one of our family’s “Unanticipated Milestones” – this is Leah Coleman’s first recital at Student Fest 2011. She’s performing Lady Gaga‘s “Born This Way.”

This entry was posted in Crazy Little Thing Called Life and tagged , , , , by Rachel Coleman. Bookmark the permalink.

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. Motivated by her child, Liam's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 22 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: American Sign Language 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 Cottonwood Heights, Utah. They are parents to Liam who lives in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy. 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. Rachel is now Grandma Ray Ray to Laura's daughter Marley.

39 thoughts on “Born This Way

  1. FANTASTIC job, Leah! And Rachel, I can’t imagine what we’d be singing (and how we’d be signing) with our twin grandsons if we didn’t have Baby Signing Time. So glad your music only experienced a “fermata” and not a final note!

    • Wow Leah! This was awesome. Such an inspiration. It goes to show that the only limits are the ones we place on ourselves. Keep up breaking down the bounsaries and the good work!

  2. Wow, awesome! My kids just came over to see what I was watching and when I told them this was Leah, the Signing Time lady’s daughter, my seven year old said, “Wow, Leah’s gotten big!” He grew up watching Signing Times. 🙂

  3. I appreciate the honesty with which you write. I totally understand your point about our kids surprizing us.
    Our girls issues are different, we do not have a formal diagnosis, for their delays. While this is at times frustrating, it has also helped me not jump to those conclusions so quickly. I just don’t know what’s going to happen for them. Their futures are big unknowns.
    So here’s to many more good surprizes!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this!! Signing Time is part of our family over here, and we, too, are amazed at what a talented young woman Leah has become!!

    And what an inspiration her mama is, too! Thank you for reminding me to take “nevers” with a grain of salt!

  5. Okay – now THAT was a moment! Rachel!!!! This is amazing – don’t you love it when our children prove us and our crazy theories, wrong? She was born with the music in her and this was proof- fantastic. Jackson is playing percussion in the school band, Ds/autism/hearing loss. He feels the music, sort of has his own vision of how things should go, but it’s a work in progress. THIS gives me hope. Thanks so much for sharing. Hope you don’t mind, but I’d love to re-post this on FB – too inspirational. Go Leah! And by the way, so glad Aaron knocked some sense in you and told you to hang on to your guitars! <3

  6. Knowing your family, I think she can’t help but be musical. I was so moved and inspired when I watched this–a testimony to me that nothing can stop us if we can only remember who we’ve always been and whose we really are. This is nothing short of a miracle to me!

  7. I don’t care if she’s deaf or has a third knee growing out of her back: she’s a great drummer. I still can’t bang on pots and pans to a recognizable rhythm. Go Leah!

  8. A wonderful example of how we are not meant to understand God’s plan….thank you for the positive words!!!

  9. Too many parents and society as well, place too many limitations, too many labels on kids. I applaud you (Rachel) as a parent for all that you do and the opportunities you provide for your children and the children you touch through Signing Time. Leah is who she is today because you let her be who she is! I think it’s awesome! Leah, you’ve grown into a beautiful, talented teenager and I’m so proud of you! Keep shining!

  10. They are all superstars!

    I love Leah’s story and yours Rachel. We have been following it for the past 2 years now.

    Our 3 1/2 year old daughter has bilateral cochlear implants. Other medical conditions have resulted in medicaly fragility and a number of complex conditions that have caused some limitations in her progress. She has begun early signing (can do 2 signs together!), and though she is not yet verbal I can’t help but know at some level her determination will get her there someday.
    It takes a village to raise a child and you have contributed so immensely to that village by sharing your story and the contribution Signing Time has made to the deaf, hard of hearing (and hearing)communities.

    Way to go Leah!
    Huge mom hug to you Rachel – from a mom who understands.


  11. Hello Rachel,
    This was amazing!! Way to Rock out Leah!!! I think of you & the Signing Time Family EVERYDAY. I have been meaning to write to you but I never knew what to say or how to say it. Those 2 simple words THANK YOU did not seem good enough for all that you have done for my oldest son. Thanks to you my family & I have always been able to communicate & understand my now 4 year old son. His issue is expressive language delay associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder & thanks to you he signed MOM before he said it. He sings, dances & signs along with you everyday. The joy you have brought to our family is immeasurable. You Alex, Leah & HOPKINS are part of our family forever. So I have 2 words for you all.. ROCK ON!!!!!

  12. I work with children with special needs (gradurating college with a developmental services worker diploma with honours in two weeks) and one thing we learned is that confusion and guilt is normal. I am glad you did not limit Leah and let her live the way she was born to be. it is inspiring.

  13. This is so inspiring! We have been a Signing Time family for three years now and we welcomed a son with Down Syndrome just a month ago. We too are making up things about how different our lives will be. Thank you for the ongoing inspiration. I know our son will surpass our expectations but raising a child with a disability is certainly intimidating! You make it all seem so easy 🙂

  14. My 2 sons came running up to the laptop to see what cool thing mommy was watching:
    My 4 year old son: Wow, that’s a good movie!
    Me: That’s Leah from Signing Time, she’s playing the drums!
    My son: Those are cool drums, how do they change color?
    Me Thinking: What? I didn’t even notice that!
    My son (at the end of the video): Is that Alex in the black shirt?
    Priceless video. Leah, you rock!

  15. Wow, Rachel… your kid rocks!! How could she not being in your family!
    She is an amazingly inspiraltion young woman with super supportive parents. Thank God you have raised her to believe there’s nothing she can’t do!
    (And good move putting the guitars under the bed and not in the next tag sale, Aaron!)

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. I was there but didn’t get such a perfect video of your performance Leah. You certainly have a stage presence that’s natural. I’m so proud of you. Can’t wait to find out your next epic accomplishment Love you

  17. Way to go Leah! You ROCK on those drums. It makes me want to pick up some sticks and I’ll never listen to “Born This Way” again without thinking of you.

  18. Truely inspirational. My kids are growing up with your videos, I can’t wait for them to see Leah now. She has such confidence and natural rhythm – Rachel you should be proud of her and yourself. Amazing!

  19. Rachel, this is absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing! We try not to put limitations on our daughter but sometimes you have those thoughts in your head as to what “they may never do”, but after seeing Leah, it just reminds me to never have those thoughts! Congrats to you & Leah!

  20. Awesome Leah !! Thank you for sharing ! When we found out our adopted daughter was deaf about a year ago I felt dreams die too. But, slowly I am learning just how much our daughter can do and will do. Thanks for the encouragement.

  21. Hi Rachael, I am amazed at all you and your children have accomplished. Leah is amazing, and so are you and your family. Keep up this amazing spiritual connection with God through your music. I taught a dance class in Virginia, and had a deaf girl take the class. She was a beautiful dancer because she felt the music through the vibrations on the floor and in the air!!!! Love you all!!!!

  22. Rachel,
    What an awesome milestone for Leah to reach and wonderful memories for the whole family (and the world) to have forever! Rock on, girl!
    Since Leah has taken up drumming, I wonder if you have ever heard of Evelyn Glennie? She is the first person (and woman) to have a full-time career in percussion, and she is deaf. Here’s the link to her talking about how she listens to music.
    I cannot end this message without thanking you and Signing Time as a key instrument in my son’s development. Luis has Down Syndrome and he has gained so much vocabulary and communication skills from watching ST. But he doesn’t know he is learning when he’s watching the videos; he just loves the music! My husband is a percussionist and Luis has definitely inherited the music genes from his father. I crack up each time I sing a song from ST and he stops what he is doing to follow along with the song.
    Once again, thanks and congratulations1

  23. My 6 year old who like many of our kids grew up with ST. Came over and said “She looks familiar…” When I told her it was Leah she said ” Wow! She is sooo cool. She is amazing!” She took the words right out of my mouth!! Go Leah!!


  24. My 5 year old: “So Leah got a job with Lady Gaga?”
    Me: “No, this is a school talent show”
    My 5 year old: “Oh, she’s really good and she looks like a rock star”
    Me: “Yes indeed”

  25. WOw these is a great video, It proves to us, us parents that our children can surprise us any day at any age and that when they set their mine in something they will do it. Great Job Leah ; )

  26. Rachel,

    I loved this video of Leah. I am a speech therapist and a mom of an almost 2 year old. Your videos have been wonderful both professionally and personally. We are currently addicted to Baby Sign Time at our house. Thank you so much for sharing your talent and family with us!


  27. WOW! Leah, you are amazing. Our daughter has Down’s syndrome and has used Signing Times since she was 2. I keep this video bookmarked on my iPhone for when ever I feel down or concerned about what she may or may not be capable of doing. Thank you for being a role model for her and a vision of hope for my outlook on her. Thanks guys!


  28. Thanks for every other informative blog. Where else may I am getting that kind of info written in such a perfect way? I’ve a undertaking that I’m just now working on, and I have been at the look out for such info.

Leave a Reply to Lori Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.