EFFINGHAM — Young Asha Walls said she wishes she could have written more in her essay about her mom, but it was limited to 100 words.
“I wish I could tell you more because she is so wonderful,” her essay ended.
Her essay about her mother, Amber Walls, 36, was entered in the Effingham Daily News “Mother of the Year” contest. After learning from her daughter's teacher that she is one of four gift winners from Weber Jewelry, Amber said she “cried a bit.”
Asha, 9, a fourth-grader in Sarah Schabbing's class at Central School, is just as proud of her mother as her mother is proud of her young daughter, who is a straight-A grade student.
“She is unique in so many different ways,” wrote Asha about her mom, in the winning essay. “The main reason she is unique is she's deaf. She taught me to talk and sign.”
“She's my only daughter, but she's also my best friend,” said Amber Walls, intrepreted by her daughter.
They have a special relationship. One that not every mother-daughter shares. Her mother also has limited speech, so sign language is their main form of communication. Amber does some lip reading, too.
“In my family, I know sign language the best,” said Asha, with her grandmother's nod in agreement.
“She is an awesome expert at advising,” Asha wrote in the essay. “She listens and understands the way I feel.”
Amber Walls was born deaf. She went to school in Charleston where she learned sign language and graduated from Charleston High School. Asha Walls, her daughter has been immersed in learning sign language from a very early age.
Amber, told through her daughter's signing, said that when she first became a mom, she was a bit worried since she couldn't hear. But, her mother Bertha Walls, helped her until she was comfortable. Also helpful was her father, Kenneth Walls.
“There was a device that when the baby cries, it would start blinking,” said Amber Walls. “Then I'd know. It was plugged into the wall.”
There are similar devices around the house that help her, such as being alerted when someone comes to the door.
Asha started learning basic sign language at 1 year old, so the two have always managed to communicate quite well. For example, early on she would show a picture or an item and teach the word such as cow, pig, horse, food, drink.
“One of my first words, I learned, was 'please,' said Asha Walls. “Next was food or eat. Also, I started intrepreting when I was three, but only a little bit,” said Asha Walls.
Then Amber learned that her daughter, who was born hearing, in kindergarten became deaf in one ear. It scared her, she said.
“I didn't know what to do,” said Amber Walls. “The audiologists said because both of her parents were deaf it might be genetics. But, she does fine.”
Her father, Tim Swatek of Prospect Heights, is also deaf. She has an uncle on her father's side who is also deaf.
The child wears two hearing aides now. Her mother has tried Cochlear implants, but it didn't work for her.
Amber Walls works at McDonald's on South Banker for the past two years. She has worked there two years and was named Employee of the Year last year, Bertha Walls said.
“I've never called in and I'm always on time,” said Amber Walls.
Asha said her mom takes here out to eat and to places like Ballard Nature Center. She helps with homework and projects, plus takes her to sports practices and games.
“We have fun,” the young daughter said.
“We bond normally, just like other people,” said her mother.
Asha said the two do plenty of things together, but her favorite pasttime is to go places – primarily going out for dinner. “She likes Panera Bread, and I like McDonald's,” said Asha.
Amber said her daughter's help came at about the young age, of four when it came to helping in public, such as at a restaurant or a store.
“I am proud of her for being a wonderful daughter to me,” said Amber Walls. “She's very patient. She helps interpret for family and other things. I'm proud of her for doing good at school and for her sense of humor.”
These experiences have led Asha to want to be a teacher for the deaf.
“My mom is still teaching me, by the way,” said Asha.
Dawn Schabbing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151 ext 138
My mother, Amber Walls, deserves to be Mother of the Year for the wonderful things she does. She is unique in so many different ways. The main reason she is unique is she's deaf. She taught me to talk and sign. She helped me through hard times. She is an awesome expert at advising. She feeds me and clothes me. She sometimes spoils me rotten. She helps me on homework, projects, events, friend issues, etc. She listens and understands the way I feel. She takes me out places. I wish I could tell you more because she is so wonderful.
– Asha Walls