Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Signing with Baby

I thought of this post while I was putting my 18-month old to bed last night, and he signed "I love you". I thought to myself, I wonder how many other 18-month olds are able to tell their parents that they love them?? My guess is, not many.

I grew up with a mother who was Deaf, and we communicated using sign language. In fact, I was signing fluently before I could speak. So it seemed natural when I had my own children that I would sign with them as well. I started signing with both of my children almost immediately after they were born. By the time they were between 10 and 12 months old, they were both signing back.

Some of the signs my son uses regularly are:

Banana (his favourite!)
I love you
All done
Bear (his bear blanket that he takes to bed with him)
Milk (he uses both fists when he wants breast milk, and one fist when he wants "banana milk" - a smoothie I make him out of bananas and soy milk)
Work (as in - Daddy's going to work)
Out (when he wants out of his high chair)

I'm sure there are lots more, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to be able to communicate with my children before they are able to speak. I see first-hand how much it reduces their frustration levels, when they can simply tell me what they want or need. Tantrums are almost non-existant. Imagine how it would feel to not be able to communicate! I'd be frustrated too! I find it particularly helpful during the time period between one and two years of age when they have lots to say, but are not yet able to form thoughts into words.

When we're signing, we sign and speak at the same time, which I find also facilitates actual speech. Lots of times I wouldn't be able to understand what my kids were trying to say, but because they accompanied the word with the sign, I was quickly able to decipher their speech, and reinforce the word they were trying to say.

I've had many moms tell me they didn't want to sign with their children, because they thought it would delay speech. In my own experience, the exact opposite has been true - my 3-year old has a full, rich vocabulary. In fact, she had a speech-language assessment a few months ago (since my mother is Deaf, my children have precautionary hearing screenings), and the pathologist, astounded, told me her language skills were at least that of a five-year old. Also, if you look at the research that has been done, studies show that children who signed as infants have a far greater vocabulary by the time they reach school age.

And although I think it's great that research supports my decision to sign with my babies, for me it's just about being able to communicate with them. That's all the support I need. :)


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  2. I really want to sign with my child. My SIL is a speech pathologist and signed with both of her really is amazing.

  3. I've also been signing with my 18 month old. It's so gratifying and wonderful when he's signed "I love you"! He doesn't have it quite right, but I know what he means.

    It's amazing how many signs and verbal words he knows now. Delayed speech, pshaw! lol

    Goodness, last count I took of his signs was about 120.

  4. Very interesting! I've been wondering about this for when we have kids. You are certainly at an advantage because you didn't have to learn it first yourself. But I know there are a lot of books and DVDs out there on the subject.

    Have a great day!

  5. There are definitely some great books and DVDs out there. You can also check your area for classes as well, there are many baby sign classes around. My only suggestion would be to make sure the signs they're using are actually ASL (American Sign Language). A lot of these baby sign classes use modified signs that are completely meaningless in the real world. If you're going to teach your child a language, it might as well be a real one. :) ASL is a very rich and beautiful language, and it has come in handy many times in my life in various jobs, being able to communicate with members of the Deaf community.

  6. Well, you answered my question already. I was guessing that you were using ASL as opposed to some of the baby sign language signs. I know a little bit of ASL, though much of it is fuzzy. It's come in handy several times over the years, though a few times I had to go back to finger spelling to get the vocabulary I didn't know or couldn't remember.

  7. We have just started signing with our daughter of 7 months. We have started with only 3 signs; nurse, eat and more. We have been using learning tools from Dr. Joseph Garcia called Sign With Your Baby. The kit contains a dvd, book and sign chart. It is based on ASL. My mother (a behavioral educator), researched it and believes it to be the best choice. We found it very easy to learn and follow.
    Thanks for the great post!

  8. Hi Erin,

    Thanks for stopping by. :)

    That's WONDERFUL that you're signing with your daughter! Just wait till she starts signing back, your heart will swell with pride. :)

    I've definitely heard of Joseph Garcia, and I've heard great things about that program. I almost signed up as an instructor with his Sign2Me program.

    By the way, your soaps and body products look fantastic!

  9. My husband and I don't know ASL, but we're working on it, because we want to start signing with our baby (he's five weeks old). I love seeing how successful other parents have been in being able to communicate with their babies so early. That's great to hear how well it's working for your family!

  10. Hi Frugalbabe, I'm so glad you stopped by!

    Yes, signing with your baby is wonderful, and it's never too early to get started. :) I hope to hear how you make out!