Waitresses Learn Sign Language & Sign Happy Birthday to a Kid

Restaurant Servers Learn Sign Language and Sign ‘Happy Birthday’ to a Deaf Boy

Waitresses Learn Sign Language & Sign Happy Birthday to a Kid
Two waitresses at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant learn sign language and sign ‘Happy Birthday’ to a young Deaf Boy

Here is a post that might inspire you to learn sign language from a whole new perspective. – Occasionally, people who work in jobs that serve the public go above and beyond the call of duty to provide their customers with exceptional care and attention. One such case involves two kind waitresses from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who made a Hard-of-hearing boy’s fourth birthday one that he and his mother will never forget.

An Observant Waitress Notices a Special Customer and Decides to Learn Sign Language

Young Octavius Mitchell Jr., along with his uncle and his mother, Shatika Dixon, recently visited a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Murfreesboro to celebrate the boy’s fourth birthday. Octavius has been hard of hearing since birth. While the three were eating dinner, their waitress Kathryn Marasco noticed that Shatika was using sign language to communicate with her son. Kathryn also noted that the boy was wearing a hearing aid. As she said, “I’m sitting there, and I’m watching from a distance, and the mom is signing to the little boy, [and] I noticed he had his hearing aids.” She then decided to do something special to help little Octavius have an extra bit of excitement on his special day.

A Unique Way to Help Patrons Celebrate Their Birthdays Would Be to Learn Sign Language

Texas Roadhouse restaurants have a tradition of having their servers sing “Happy Birthday” to customers who are at the restaurant celebrating their birthday. They also allow the birthday guests of honor to sit in a saddle mounted on a wooden stand. Thus, Octavius received a unique restaurant birthday observance by being mounted on a horse saddle by a gleeful group of waiters and waitresses.

In describing Octavius’ reaction to sitting in the saddle, his mom Shatika said, “He loves animals, so he was so excited about getting to sit on it and [have] all the attention on him.” The Texas Roadhouse website states, “If you’re celebrating your birthday at one of our restaurants, you are granted the honor of being seated on a saddle while our servers [say] ‘Yeehaw’ and sing ‘Happy birthday’ to you.”

Two Waitresses Add to Octavius’ Birthday Excitement

Restaurant Servers Learn Sign Language and Sign Happy Birthday to a Deaf Boy

[Photo Credit: NC5]

When Kathryn realized that it was Octavius’ birthday and that he was hard of hearing, she asked her co-worker Brandie White if she knew how to say “Happy birthday” in sign language. Brandie said that she didn’t, but like Kathryn, she wanted to help Octavius have an extra bit of fun during his birthday dinner.

Brandie, who studies speech-language pathology and audiology at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, then went to YouTube on her cell phone. She and Kathryn wanted to learn sign language of a special phrase for the birthday boy.

After looking up how to express “Happy birthday” in American Sign Language (ASL), Kathryn and Brandie quickly got all the appropriate hand gestures down. Then, the servers went up to Octavius’ table to show him what they had learned.

The two waitresses not only wished Octavius a happy birthday verbally. They also did it in another way that was special to him, thus putting a big smile on the boy’s face and making his mother extremely thankful. “Happy birthday to you,” the servers signed in ASL. Octavius and his mom were greatly impressed with the gesture. In this fashion, Kathryn and Brandie had observed the four-year-old’s birthday and had also taken the time to mark it in a way that he really appreciated.

The Servers’ Act of Kindness Moved Octavius’ Mom

The surprise act of kindness by Kathryn and Brandie touched Shatika deeply. “Everybody thinks we’re crazy when we’re out talking and we’re signing. So it’s really important to me that someone noticed that and picked up on that and made that special just for him, my baby,” she said.

Being a customer support representative for a local company, Shatika knows firsthand how important it is to consistently provide the utmost in care for clients in all types of businesses. This background made her especially appreciative of Kathryn and Brandie’s unusual act of compassion toward her son.

According to Shatika, the entire evening was fantastic and truly 

unforgettable for her and her son. Brandie said that it’s important to her to create this kind of experience for customers by making them feel completely comfortable at the Texas Roadhouse. “As a server, I want you to be able to come in; I want [you] to be like, ‘Oh, this is my home; I belong here,” she said.

Shatika added that the interaction with the servers was the first time people other than her and his teacher had used sign language with Octavius. Thus, Kathryn and Brandie expressed a simple phrase, but it was a tremendous experience for the young Deaf boy. Thanks to the kindness of the servers, his fourth birthday celebration was one he and his mom will remember for the rest of their lives.

The Benefits of Hearing People Learning and Using ASL

As in the case of Octavius, communicating with Deaf and Hard-of-hearing (HOH) people through the use of ASL can make them feel happy and more fully integrated into the larger (hearing) society. Just by seeing people interact with them through the use of their language, the Deaf and HOH population can gain a greater sense of inclusion.

As Deaf ADA eligibility specialist Christina Stephens says, “I’m Deaf [and] my husband is Deaf. We both love it when people try to learn our language, even if they just know how to fingerspell. My husband really appreciates it when people make an effort to learn and then communicate with him. He doesn’t care if you only know a little bit [of sign language] as long as you put forth the effort to chat with him and include him.”

Hearing People Who Sign Can Improve Customer Relations

This view is shared by Vicki Robinson, a hearing person who has been teaching physics to Deaf college students for more than forty years. In response to the Quora question, “What do Deaf people think about people who aren’t deaf learning sign language?” Vicki wrote, “I’ll defer to the Deaf Quorans here for the definitive answer. But my experience is that Deaf people appreciate hearing people learning ASL.”

She went on to describe the case of her daughter, who worked as a server in a bakery near a large college for the Deaf. Vicki taught her daughter some signs and phrases related to food and serving. Thus, through her mom’s teaching, she was able to use the sign vocabulary that was needed for her job. When Deaf patrons came into the bakery for lunch, the daughter would ask, “May I help you?” in ASL. She could also do simple ASL fingerspelling, which is used in sign language to spell out the names of people, places, and objects for which no sign exists.

Because of her signing skills, Deaf customers would allow other bakery patrons to go ahead of them in line until Vicki’s daughter was available to take their orders. This example shows that when a hearing person learns even just a little bit of sign language, it can have a positive impact on members of the Deaf community. In this case, Vicki’s daughter lacked advanced signing skills. But she had enough knowledge about sign language to take her Deaf customers’ orders without their having to point to items on a menu.

It is Best to be Invited Before Entering a Deaf Space

Vicki also points out that her daughter’s case is one that involves interacting with Deaf people out in the hearing world. However, when a hearing person who can sign enters a space where only Deaf people are present, the hearing person shouldn’t assume that they’ll be automatically welcomed. This is so because hearing people don’t share the life experiences of Deaf people. An example would be joining a group of Deaf people at a club without a specific invitation. So, in a Deaf space, it is best not to presume that one is accepted, even among people that one knows well.

 

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