Connellsville girl, 9, learns new language
By Mary Pickels
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 10:34 a.m.
On a snowy Saturday morning, Abby Trich and half a dozen family members arrived at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Uniontown, eager to resume sign language lessons.
Abby, 9, was diagnosed several years ago with enlarged vestibular aqueduct syndrome, a congenital disorder that has led to hearing loss.
“She has medium to severe loss in her right ear and severe loss in her left ear,” said her mother, Kerri Trich, of Connellsville.
Surgery is not an option, Trich said.
Abby's teacher at South Side Elementary School, where she is in fourth grade, uses a wireless microphone system that Abby picks up through her hearing aids.
A petite blonde, Abby arrived for her fourth lesson holding an American Girl Doll, also equipped with hearing aids.
“I taught my friend Kylee how to (sign) her name,” Abby said, demonstrating.
“She gets a kick out of knowing a ‘secret code,'” Trich said.
Abby loves playing softball, and rides a bicycle and a scooter.
“She wears a helmet,” Trich said.
Because any head injury could further Abby's hearing loss, dodgeball, roller skating and ice skating are out, Trich said.
Trich contacted Cathy Zimmerman, coordinator of the Hear Fayette program, with questions after learning of her daughter's hearing loss.
American Sign Language classes are taught for a minimal donation, Zimmerman said.
“Participants are supposed to practice during the week, which this family does,” Zimmerman said. “They are probably the most enthusiastic family we've had.”
“We want people to realize there are deaf people here in Fayette County. When people see us in a restaurant ‘signing,' we get a lot of attention. We want people to know what it looks like.
“We have had EMTs, people who work with special needs students. They think it will help them communicate better,” she noted.
Trich credited her father, Jim Hill of Mt. Pleasant, for suggesting the family learn sign language together.
“I was just worried about her. I wanted to make sure she had everything we could give her,” Hill said. “We practice at home. It's fun. We are getting there.”
“We decided that, God forbid, she loses any more hearing, we wanted to be able to communicate with her,” Abby's grandmother, Jeanne Hill, said.
Also participating in the 16 weeks of lessons are Abby's cousin, Andrea Bitner, and aunt, Tricia Miller, both of Mt. Pleasant; and brother Doug Trich, 6.
Trich's older children, Amanda, 19, and Michael, 17, practice at home with the family.
Jeff Martz, who teaches from the American Sign Language University curriculum, is deaf and mute, and has been using sign language for decades.
Saturday's lesson included learning to sign aunt, uncle, bedroom, brush teeth, friend, idea, excuse me, happy, help, hurt, wash, sad, sorry and love.
Sitting in a semi-circle facing Martz, the family repeated the symbols he demonstrated.
Several asked each other questions, laughing as they caught themselves speaking while signing.
“How are you?” Martz signed.
He bent his hands, touching knuckles, opened and cupped his palms and pointed a finger at family members.
The students responded, their fingers spelling “fine,” “good,” “so-so.”
When Abby correctly signed “excuse me,” Martz applauded and waved his wrists to say ‘yea!”
Some of the easiest symbols were those for “baby” — Martz crossed his arms as if holding and rocking an infant — and “brush teeth,” which is self-explanatory.
The family learned to place their pinkies to the sides of their foreheads and flick up, to express the word “idea.”
They learned to sign “cry” by dragging their fingertips down from their eyes, as if shedding tears.
No one had trouble when Martz pointed to the word “love.”
Family members crossed their arms over their hearts, palms inward.
At the end of the session, they turned to Martz and raised the fingers of one hand to their lips, then downward in his direction.
Their words were silent, but their meaning clear.
“Thank you,” they signed.
Visit www.stvincentdepauluniontown.org for more information about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Connellsville’s new curfew to begin in 10 days; penalties stiff for minors, parents, businesses
- Fayette County candy stores say public sweet on jelly beans as well as chocolate
- Attorney says Fayette County officials’ policy on recording goes against state law
- No date set for closing on proposed hotel property in Connellsville
- Dunbar discusses renovation of town
- Brush fire season keeps firefighters busy
- Too early to worry about possible CDBG cuts
- Resource fair planned for area veterans
- Celebrate National Library Month with sweet contest at Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville
- Cause of Mill Run turbine collapse still being investigated
- Tenebrae Service to be held Friday at St. Rita church, Connellsville