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Local deaf girl creates video channels to help others learn sign language


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Laynie Petersen. | Courtesy Calyn Petersen

AMMON — Nine-year-old Laynie Petersen was born with a disability but instead of letting it slow her down, she’s taking advantage of the cards she’s been dealt.

The Idaho Falls elementary schooler was diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome when she was two months old. The disorder is an acronym that stands for coloboma (parts of the eyes don’t develop), heart defects, atresia of the choanae (parts of the nose don’t develop), growth retardation, genital abnormalities and ear abnormalities.

Although Laynie is deaf, has a feeding tube, trach tube and a ventilator at night, she’s making the most of it by teaching others sign language through videos posted online.

“We wanted more people to be able to sign to her and for her to feel more included,” Laynie’s mom Calyn Petersen said. “We thought maybe we can share (the videos) with a big portion of the world and have people learn and have us as a family learn and grow too, so a double win.”

With the help of her mom, Laynie tries to post at least one video a week on social media. She teaches around five signs per video and she keeps them about one minute long.

“We want it to be something that as you’re scrolling through social media and you come across them, it’s like ‘Oh, I can learn a couple new signs today,'” Petersen said.

Courtesy Calyn Petersen

Laynie started creating the videos because she wants people to be able to communicate with her and others who are in similar types of situations.

The short clips have also been a push to help her family learn sign language. Before Laynie was born, the Petersen family didn’t know it.

“Sign language hasn’t come easy for us,” Petersen said. “We thought maybe this will give us a little bit of a nudge.”

Petersen said she wants to share Laynie with the world because of the happiness she brings to her family despite her obstacles, and the videos are one way she can do that.

“She’s taught me 10 times more than I’ll ever teach her,” Petersen said.

During the summer, Laynie will undergo her 20th surgery. In the meantime, she plans to continue releasing videos with a mission to make the world a better place.

“If everyone just took a couple minutes and learned the basics it would make such an impact on her life,” Petersen said. “But we’re also trying to help other people that may use sign language as well.”

Laynie’s videos can be found on Facebook and Instagram at “Laynie Signs.”

Courtesy Calyn Petersen
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