Last year wasn’t a happy one for many people. However, with all of the difficult memories of 2020, here’s a heart-warming moment to sweeten the bitterness. Before all of the lockdowns, Crystal Kouri from Los Angeles, California, went grocery shopping with her son, PJ. The two-year-old was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic disorder that deforms the facial structure. This condition left PJ’s ears underdeveloped and unable to hear. However, during this grocery trip, the deaf boy was able to communicate his love to his mom.
Deaf Boy Signs “I Love You” to His Mother
The viral video clip shows PJ sitting in the grocery cart, signing “I love you” to his mother at the supermarket. Crystal signs “I love you” back, and PJ repeats it. This is a beautiful moment between a mother and son who had already been through so much together.
Despite being only two years of age, PJ already underwent five surgeries, some of which to help his breathing. Despite his medical issues, the little boy learned how to overcome being deaf by speaking through sign language. He can also speak, but he communicates best through signing.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Crystal explains her son’s condition. “PJ has Treacher Collins syndrome, like Auggie Pullman, the fictional character from the movie and book, Wonder. His condition has caused him to have five major surgeries so far, which have enabled him to breathe, eat, and grow normally.
“Treacher Collins syndrome has caused PJ’s ears to be underdeveloped, resulting in moderate hearing loss. We began sign language immediately as a way for him to communicate by wearing his hearing aid. At the age of two, he now has a 250-word vocabulary, both verbal and sign.
However, the moment at the grocery store was extra special. “Hearing him say and sign ‘I love you’ was as emotional and pivotal as the first time he signed ‘mama’. I stopped right there in the supermarket to record him.”Crystal Kouri, UNILAD
About Treacher Collins Syndrome
Treacher Collins Syndrome is caused by a genetic mutation in one of three genes that dictate bone growth around the face. This causes symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including:
- Small cheekbones
- Downward slant of the eyes
- Drooping upper eyelids
- Fewer teeth and/or crooked teeth
- Small lower jaw, causing an overbite
- Cleft palate or cleft lip
Additionally, the syndrome could result in small, differently shaped ears, often result in hearing loss. This is what caused the deaf state of the little boy signing in the grocery store.
People with Treacher Collins syndrome often require treatment from a panel of health professionals, including experts to care for brain and skull issues, ear and hearing issues, nose and throat issues, eye problems, teeth and mouth issues, and speech problems. This often intense treatment begins soon after birth. Many newborns with this condition struggle to breathe due to narrow airways. Sometimes this could be helped by placing the baby into a different position; sometimes it requires a tube inserted into the windpipe. Feeding issues may arise at this time as well and similarly needs to be immediately addressed. However, most facial reconstruction surgery occurs when the child is older.
Because of all of these early-arising medical issues, children with Treacher Collins syndrome need a lot of parental support and encouragement. The physical effects of the disorder could leave them feeling ashamed about their appearance, and the frequent medical appointments may feel overwhelming, even all-consuming. It’s important for parents to help the child develop an identity outside of their condition. Encourage them to try different hobbies and activities, and help them develop skills they enjoy. This could help their self-esteem, but if they feel anxious about social situations, they may benefit from therapy as well.
“I Love You”
And in the case of PJ, it looks like Crystal is giving him so much love and support. Being deaf is a difficult challenge for a boy so young, but he has a vibrancy that refuses to be diminished. We hope Pj and his family continues to thrive in 2021
- “Tear-jerking moment deaf boy, two, signs ‘I love you’ to his mother for the first time while they are out grocery shopping.” Daily Mail. Emily Webber. January 17, 2020
- “Heartwarming Moment Deaf Boy, 2, Signs ‘I Love You’ To His Mum For The First Time Ever.” Unilad. Julia Banim. January 18, 2020
- “Treacher Collins syndrome”. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center.
- “Treacher Collins Syndrome.” Kids Health. Brian C. Kellogg, MD and Ani Danelz, CCC-SLP. August 2018