At age six, sign language was merely an interest for Sarah. Years later, her skill has given her the passion, determination and voice to speak on behalf of the special needs community at Lambs Farm and beyond.
Sarah’s story begins with Linda Bove, the actress with hearing loss, also known as Linda the Librarian on Sesame Street. Sarah recalls being captivated by her personality and ability to teach American Sign Language to children with and without the disability.
“Linda Bove was my mentor,” Sarah said. “I loved watching her; I was glued to the television.”
Sarah’s parents saw how fascinated their daughter was with sign language and knew it was something she had the ability to pursue. In no time, Sarah was signed up for classes at the local Park District.
When she completed the beginner courses, it was evident that Sarah found her passion. She was considered advanced in sign language after her 12-week course and continued her education with a private instructor. As Sarah’s signing skills developed, she moved on to Harper College to focus on linguistic analysis and interpretation. She ended up graduating at the top of her class.
“I wanted to use my skills to give back to the community,” Sarah said – and she’s done just that.
Sarah used her skills for over ten years helping several students at a church and volunteered her time at Northeast DuPage Special Recreation Association (NEDSRA), where she interpreted for a young girl named Samantha. “It was a special moment when I met her,” Sarah said. “I signed to let her show her shoe was untied, and that let her know that I could communicate with her.”
Also during that time, Sarah and her mother, Mary Anne, were part of a Sign & Story program at the local library. Mary Anne read the stories aloud while Sarah signed and taught children their ABCs.
At the heart of Sarah’s goal in learning sign language was the hope that she could be a role model to others with developmental disabilities. As someone who has been both a target and active bystander of bullying, Sarah believes people need to look beyond any disability and see someone for who they are as a person.
“I let all Participants know at Lambs Farm that if they have a talent or gift, don’t give that up,” Sarah said. “If anyone ever doubts you, stand up, fight the bullies and say, ‘This is who I am.’”
Sarah’s passion and spirit continues to grow at Lambs Farm. She has a job and her witty, fun personality is loved by all. She makes it clear that nothing can stand between her and her dreams, as she aspires to be a sign language instructor, actress and motivational speaker.
“I’m Sarah, a special needs adult,” she said. “I have Down syndrome, but look where I am now thanks to my mentor on Sesame Street, my parents and my ability to never give up.”