To make a deaf girl feel at home, dozens of neighbors learn sign language

“It was just an overwhelmingly positive reaction,’’ her mother, Glenda Savitz, says “I don’t think any of these neighbors were looking to be in the spotlight. But the story inspired other people. They wanted to learn.’’

And this is exactly what they did.

Learning the American Sign Language – which has become the newest language spoken around Sam’s neighborhood – is not a small accomplishment.

It takes patience and dedication. It takes friendship and a strong resolve that a small girl who is unable to hear will never be left to suffer alone at the place she calls home.

Raphael and Glenda Savitz made the decision to move to Auburndale in 2016. Three months later, little Samantha was born. Infant screening tests showed that their baby girl was deaf.

Neighbors brought treats, and then something astounding happened.  They raised their hands and said: We want to be good neighbors. We want to learn how to speak to this little girl.

Glenda Savitz!

Posted by EveryBody Signs on Saturday, March 2, 2019

When Lucia Marshall suggested hosting sign language courses taught by a speech-language pathologist, 20 people signed up on the spot.

“People asked from time to time, ‘Where is this going?’ ’’ Marshall says. “And I said, ‘It’s not necessarily about the class. It’s about the community.’ ’’

After that, more wonderful things kept on happening. A New York-based author came to visit. She the writer of a children’s book based on the story of the neighborhood. And work will soon start on its drawings. A video about the girl and the neighborhood was broadcast by CBS News and has been seen by millions of people. The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing awarded the neighborhood in recognition of its efforts to “create an accessible environment for the Savitz family.”

And soon, even more people signed up for the class in order to learn the skills needed to talk to the little girl down the street, making it a total of 40 who have taken part in them.

“To think that people want to learn your language,’’  the mother said. “That’s so very cool.’’

Linda Englander organized the latest American Sign Language class, which ended in November, further deepening what it means to be part of little Samantha’s neighborhood.

“I think we are uniquely lucky,’’ Englander says. “We happen to live in a little piece of heaven here. People are different. Everybody’s politics are different. There are different religions.

But when Sam was born, she came into this very warm and supportive place where it was natural to embrace her. She’s just a delightful little girl. If you have the opportunity to be kind to a person and to be close to someone, isn’t that the best thing?’’

The best thing about it all is that for little Sam, who turned 3 a month ago, there is really nothing going on here. It’s just the normal life in Islington Road. People are getting together to know a sweet little girl, to make sure she feels well in their neighborhood.

After all, is that not what neighbors are for?

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