SAN MARCOS — Almost three years ago, Carlsbad resident Katie Rose Bassett said she received one of the biggest shocks of her life: her newborn son, Cade, was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss.
At just 2 months old, Cade was given his first pair of hearing aids while Bassett quickly delved into American Sign Language research. Bassett said her life, as well as Cade’s, changed immediately after discovering Jamie Schackman, the founder and owner of Sign, Learn and Play, an American Sign Language class geared toward babies.
“Seeing Cade’s transformation was truly amazing,” said Bassett, who took Schackman’s courses multiple times. “His confidence, his excitement to communicate … I cannot recommend her class enough. Babies are able to communicate through sign before they are able to verbally communicate. This is such a great way to bridge the gap between baby and parent.”
Although Schackman, a San Marcos mother of three children, created Sign, Learn and Play just two years ago, her knowledge of American Sign Language dates back decades.
Schackman, who grew up in Farmington, Minnesota, is the daughter of two hearing-impaired parents. Her mother is hard of hearing and her father is deaf, Schackman said.
Growing up with her younger sister, Schackman said American Sign Language was her first language. But she didn’t realize her life was different from others until she became older.
“As I got older, I realized so many things were extremely different,” Schackman said. For example, how my friends could simply call their parents to pick them up and I had to call a relay service to interpret what I was saying over the phone to them.”
With her knowledge of the American Sign Language, Schackman said she decided to teach the language to others with the inspiration of her oldest daughter, Victoria.
“We wanted to teach families and babies to be able to communicate with each other earlier on just because it was such a great experience for me with my own kids,” Schackman said. “I thought why isn’t there anyone providing this in our community.”
Schackman’s classes became such a success that she was forced to develop multiple courses for parents looking to learn more than what was offered in the introduction course.
“I have watched so many babies communicate with their parents for the first time,” Schackman said. “It’s been a blessing to have the parent come back the next week to class so happy and relieved that their child can finally tell them what they want or need.”
Schackman, who offers her classes at Vista’s Babies in Bloom, said she chose to focus on babies and toddlers because of her own positive experience communicating with her three children through sign language.
“I wanted others to have this experience as well,” Schackman said. “All my children were able to cut out any frustration or confusion when they could sign what they wanted or needed.”
Schackman said her “ultimate goal” is to give parents the tools they need to be able to communicate with their children.
“Whether it’s to sign with the child at a young age before verbal skills have developed or if it’s due to a hearing loss or even a speech issue,” Schackman said.” American Sign Language is truly the key that unlocks that communication barrier and it has been a huge blessing to share this gift with other families.”
For those unable to take sign language courses, Schackman encourages all people to learn basic signs such as those for “hi,” “nice to meet you,” or “thank you.”
But for the dozens of parents who were able to take Schackman’s courses, being able to communicate with their children and members of the deaf community has been lifechanging.
“I cannot thank Jamie and her class enough,” Bassett said. “It brought all of us together and gave us so much hope and encouragement for Cade’s future. Although Cade is talking up a storm these days, he still continues to love sign language and signs the songs we learned in class often.”
For more information about Jamie Schackman or Sign, Learn and Play, go to facebook.com/signlearnandplayasl.