For most of us, from the time we are born until the time we die, our worlds are flooded with sound. Sounds in the form of speech encourage us to speak our first words, read our first books, or write our first sentence. For others, sounds come merely as a trickle, interrupting early language development and isolating them from the mainstream world.
That's where Lois Furon comes in. For over 30 years, Furon has broken the silence for hearing impaired youngsters by teaching them sign language, reading and speech skills and immersing them in rich experiences which naturally encourage them to express themselves.
In one of her recent classes Furon reached into a cage and placed in front of her students a small hedgehog and a container of worms.
"I want to hold it!" 10-year-old Ashley Douglas signs assertively to classmates. Vance Dutcher, 9, strokes its small quills as he guides the animal toward another mealworm.
"He ate it!" Dutcher returns with a flurry of sign language as hedgehog, Petri, gobbles yet another small worm.
"We truly encourage speech and language through the the excitement and involvement of the activity," Furon says of the hedgehog experience.
She explains that due to the nature of hearing impairment, students are less familiar with many terms and concepts of everyday life.
For example, the meaning of words and concepts like impossible, courage, good sense and caution are all part of a book the class is reading, yet take a fair measure of sign language and interpretation to clarify their meaning.
Near the end of their session, the students gathered around a small oven while the smell of vanilla wafted through the air.
Furon pulled out a bowl of rice pudding, a dish they had prepared earlier and a favorite food of one of their reading characters. In addition, it was a food they had never tasted. Carlos Cordova scooped up the last of his pudding, nodded, and gave the universal sign, a thumbs up.
"I always feel so lucky," Furon explains just after the bell rang and the students leaped for the door.
"I've been doing this for so long and each and every day there's that "Aha!" moment, each day a new breakthrough."