Monday, February 14, 2011

Baby Signing Works!

I've been working diligently with Xander on his language. He had very few words and we were concerned given his birth circumstances. (Omitted for his privacy.) We were also struggling with a lot of screaming, crying and temper tantrum behaviors. He was frustrated.. and so were we.

So I started reading everything I could. I remembered that when I was high school I babysat for a little boy named Robbie. Robbie has Down Syndrome and his speech therapist actually taught him sign language to start since children with Down Syndrome have large tongues and it can delay speech. He did learn to talk but in the meantime it served it's purpose.

I've seen sign language materials marketed for babies but I didn't want to invest a lot of money into a system for us. I figured it'd be my "luck" that I'd buy an expensive program and suddenly he'd talk up a storm.

Our library didn't have much and what they did have was checked out and already had a waiting list.

Soooo... I turned to You Tube. I've found over the years that you can pretty much find anything you could imagine (and things you don't care to imagine) on You Tube.

I put the keywords "Sign", "ASL" and whichever word I wanted to work on. When I found someone that was easy to understand and follow, I clicked on their user name to see what other videos they offered.

The first sign I taught Xander was "More." I was eating some fruit and he looked like he wanted some. So I offered him a taste. He loved it and grunted to tell me so. I said "MORE?" and did the sign and then gave him another piece.

Then he looked like he wanted more. So I took his hands and we signed hand over hand while I said "More." Then I gave him "more." We did this over and over. It was low key and low stress.

One night we were at the dinner table and Brandon gave him a bite of whatever we were having. I asked Xander "More?" and he signed! We all clapped. Every since then, he has used the sign.

The next sign I taught him was "Please." If he wanted something, I asked him to sign "please." We used the same kind of method and he started signing "please" on his own.

Then we turned it into a sentence. "More, please."

Next I added "All done." We say all done, but we actually use the sign for "finished" because it was easiest. When he is done eating, he signs "All done." If I'm giving him a treat and I'm done, I sign "All done." When I'm done changing his diaper or done bathing him, I do the same thing. We also use it at the end of storybooks.

The most recent sign I've taught him is "Thank you." At first he didn't like this one at all and it was pretty hard to teach him because it comes after he gets what he is asking for. So if he asks for "more please?" and then I give it to him, he had very little incentive to sign "Thank you!" But I kept asking and we cheered like crazy people the first time he did it without me asking.

Some people argue that you are delaying vocal speech if you teach your baby signs. I've seen the exact opposite. When I first started signing with Xander, he made almost no sounds with his signing. Now he vocalizes sounds that sound very much like the word he is signing. It's been amazing and we've not had near the temper tantrums and frustrations that we were experiencing before.

A few other things that I've learned:

- Just because your baby doesn't sign it perfectly doesn't mean they don't understand. Xander signs 'Please" by rubbing his tummy. The sign is supposed to be up higher on his chest. It's like a baby "mispronouncing" a word, like "Dankoo" for Thank You. It still counts! I do the signs properly and have learned to "understand" his signs like I learned to understand mispronunciations from my older children.

- Practice, practice, practice. I've taught my older children the same signs. So now they use the signs when they talk to him too. "Please?" is a common one that my girls ask of Xander. If he is trying to snatch, they ask him to "Say please?" and he signs back "please!"

- Use the words with the signs and soon your baby will be signing and talking too!

Father, I'm so thankful that Robbie was put in my path before I became a mama. You prepared me for this situation many years ago in Your wisdom. Thank you!



Beth Barnhill said...

I taught all my children simple sign language... We started as soon as they were eating finger foods... We did the signs you mentioned along with things like juice, cookie, milk.... I don't believe it delays speech at all and makes for a happier baby! Look for the Wee Sign videos and I believe some called signing with Alex and Leah!

Lee-Ann said...

I signed with my kids here & there, the kids enjoyed it and so did I. We did the basics like you have, we also did milk & bath. :)

Margo said...

Isn't YouTube great? So helpful, more than just text, for learning things.

My friend taught her daughter signs - her daughter has Down's - and it helped so much. How funny to think of babytalking in signs ;)