If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it. ~ Margaret Fuller
My son is 18 months old and he has a lot to say…with his hands! Aiden uses some sign language to make his point. He has normal hearing and is considered a typically developing child. Since he was a wee one, I have modelled sign language for him. When he was several months old, he started using the signs spontaneously. His favourites were ‘ball’, ‘eat’, ‘all done’, ‘more’, ‘up’, ‘car’, and ‘milk” (despite a daily tutorial in signing ‘mommy’ and ‘love you’). As he grew, he attached his word approximations to the signs – in fact the signs are disappearing as more words appear. The point is – for me I felt that the signs made a big difference for my son over the last several months. He had a way to specifically tell me what he wanted…and I could “hear” him.
The way I started signs with my son was simply making the sign as I said the word. For example, each time I picked him up (a lot), I signed “up” AND said “up”.
– Pair a word with a sign.
– Consistently match the sign with a routine:
i.e.) Before I took Aiden out of the highchair, I signed and said ‘all done….all done’.
– Consistently match the sign with an activity:
i.e.) Every morning when it was time to take my daughter to school, we signed and said “car”. Aiden learned to head for the door and put on the boots…usually daddy’s huge boots but at least it was a routine.
– Consistently match the sign with a favourite picture, item, or toy:
i.e.) When we rolled the ball back and forth, I signed and said ‘ball’ for each turn…he caught on.
– Be patient – my son understood the signs long before he used the signs.
– Be observant – my son approximated his signs, meaning his wee hands did not form precise signs but I still ‘heard’ him.
– No need to have a sign for everything – I focused most on words that would help my son be able to a) request something b) decline or stop something c) name common items in his life, such as baby, dog, car, shoe and to d) more recently show kindness with please and thank you.
– Let your child lead – sometimes children create their own gestures and signs. They are right. Follow their lead.
The magical part is that your child will learn that expressing himself has a positive impact on the his world. Your child can change his world by expressing himself – hear him. I am also of the belief that giving my son more input is helpful – he not only hears me but he also sees me talk. Use your eye gaze, big smiles, pointing, and signs to really help your child “hear” you. Furthermore, if his mouth isn’t ready to form the words, why not let his hands do the job? Why limit communication?
I have attached some links which offer video dictionaries, research, a video of a baby using sign, and related resources. Let me know if you have more to add or if you would like to share your experiences with baby sign.
1. These two links offer video dictionaries of signs.
http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/echo/aslpro.cgi Click on ASL for Babies.
2 . Following is a link to a great summary of research:
3. The following link includes a great summary article and further links about signing with baby:
4. Watch this YouTube video to see a typically developing child using sign – wow she is talented! Please do not compare your child to the wee one in this video – this little girl just really has a knack for signing.
If a school district in your area needs Speech-Language Pathologists, please let me know by clicking here!
Marnee Brick, MSc
Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of of Speech Therapy
TinyEYE Therapy Services (Speech Therapy Telepractice)