A firefighter used sign language to talk with a special needs boy. (Photo: Boston25News.com)

Firefighter bonds with special needs boy through sign language

Lt. Mike Rheault learned sign language as a kid because his mother and father were deaf, but as he got older he stopped using it as much. 

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Over the years, however, he's found himself communicating through sign language a dozen or so times while out on calls.

The latest call featuring his use of sign language is making the rounds on social media, as he and a 9-year-old boy named Tegan shared a special moment.

Amy McCall, Tegan's mother, recorded the video after she and Tegan had returned home Thursday night to fire alarms going off in their apartment building as food was burning in another unit.

After investigating, Rheault was greeting kids returning to the building before his crew left.

"I happened to see a kid come by and I said, ‘High five,’" Rheault said. "He gave me a high five, and I said, ‘You cold?’ And he just kind of looked at me, and he looked like he wanted to communicate, but he was reading my lips a lot."

Tegan, who was born with cerebral palsy, is nonverbal, and sometimes uses modified sign language to communicate.

Within moments, the two were signing, as Rheault taught him a new word: fireman.

"It was so sweet," McCall said. "Oh my god, he was just so happy, and he wasn’t left out. He got included, and he had a conversation with a fireman.

Rheault and Tegan chatted a little more before parting ways, with the exchange boosting the confidence of a little boy who now doesn't feel so different.

But Tegan isn't the only one feeling uplifted.

"He made my day, and I made his day, I guess," Rheault said. "So, we both walked away very happy."

Tegan keeps watching the video on his mother's phone, excited each time it plays. To top it all off, Tegan and his mother plan to bring cookies to the firemen on Monday.

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