Signing up for powerful communication- Signing with baby

 

To sign or not to sign with my baby, a question many parents ask. For me, I wanted to start communicating with my kids as soon as possible. I couldn’t wait to hear their voices, not just vocalisations, but communications that expressed their character and personality. I am thrilled this was possible with the twins, who are easier and easier to understand every day. While some people and studies claim infant signing does not impact a child’s development, I have to disagree. From the first-hand experience, it has made a HUGE difference in our daily lives.

Here’s why!

COMMUNICATION- CREATING A “VOICE.”

Everyone wants to communicate with their child as soon as possible; to hear their individual “Voice”. This is possible through sign language! It’s a skill baby can acquire much earlier than vocalisation of words. So why not take advantage of it and talk to your child?

I began signing with the twins long before they could understand it or put it into practice. For example, before breastfeeding, I would sign and say “Milk”. They caught on quickly and were copying the milk symbol – opening and closing your fist several times – as soon as they could do the movements. Then when they began eating solids, we started with “More” and “All done” as signs we shared to talk to each other.

MINIMIZE CRYING AND FRUSTRATION

I think I’ve managed to minimise crying and frustration by using sign language many times. The signs “More” and “All done” were especially helpful for meal-time. I was able to learn when they were finished, and what they enjoyed best when introducing new foods. It worked so much better than just crying.

Signing has been helpful for more than just eating. The signs for “More” and “All done”  have also come in handy while playing, reading, and singing. They still use them all the time, even though they’re starting to vocalise their needs.  I like to think many tantrums and frustrating moments are avoided because they’re able to share, even part of what they’re feeling. Now that the twins are fighting over toys and vying for my attention, I have started using the sign for “Share”. It’s a bit harder to sign; so even though it’s not quite “Crisp” and a little watered down, I can understand what my children are saying.

Advice: It’s ok to sign in ways that are best for the child, it doesn’t have to be perfect form, and they will be able to use it confidently.

LESS GUESSING AND MORE ASKING
There is much less guessing now about what my twins need or want. By asking both vocally and signing, they can respond in the manner they’re most comfortable with at that moment. It also provides an opportunity for the twins to practice their words as I communicate with them. This method has helped us avoid a lot of potential frustration.

I wondered like other moms out there if they would favour signing over speech, and if it would delay vocalisation; but it has done the opposite as I always vocalise the word when I sign. Just today I asked my son to say “Thank you”, and he said it clear as day – but he also signed it perfectly (with no prompting from me). This shows that he has put two and two together and he isn’t favouring one method of communication over the other. My daughter is communicating differently and is saying some words now without signing them. She says “More” a lot but doesn’t always sign it, as she knows I understand what she is saying through speech.  When she vocalises, she is naturally moving more towards just speaking the words, as for her it is less effort on her part than what’s involved in doing both.

I have found that signing has greatly benefited my children’s early communication. It has opened doors of understanding that were beyond their developmental milestones and been incredibly helpful in daily interactions. Some of the most useful, practical, and best words they’ve learned are “Diaper,” which has really helped with changes; “Please” and “Thank you”, which have helped to support teaching manners; as well as “book”, which is used many times throughout the day in our house. We’re currently working on “Help”, “Hungry”, “Thirsty”, “Car”, “Sleep”, “Cereal”, “Cheese”, and several others as they expand their vocabulary, both in signing and oral language.

LEARNING THROUGH DIFFERENT SYLES
I love that my babies can express themselves, not just verbally but physically as well. We all learn differently. Personally, I’m a better visual and physical learner and enjoy putting these aspects into action through signing. I keep the verbal component to reinforce the word when spoken and give my babies as many ways to learn as possible. If you could choose to learn something through one method or several, what would you choose? I know the choice I’d make, every time!

There are mixed reviews out there on signing with your child before speech is a skill. Some claim there is little to no impact on verbal learning and development. But infant signing allows you to create a language-rich, interactive, and engaging environment for your child and offers precious one-on-one time daily. Even if signing doesn’t improve overall cognitive development as compared to non-signing, it allows for children to express themselves and show their intelligence much sooner.  If anything, it is a straightforward and non-stressful learning activity that can engage your child. Why would you not consider it?

I also believe that signing is invaluable as an inclusive form of communication.  As our children grow up, I want them to be accepting and welcoming to all their playmates.  If they meet a child with a hearing loss who signs, how wonderful would that be for them to have that bridge of communication?  They don’t have to be fluent signers, just the basics alone would help to open the door to friendships that might otherwise be missed.

So now that I have you interested in signing with your non-verbal or somewhat verbal child – “Where can I learn,” you ask?

Here are some resources I have found can be of benefit.

APPS:

SIGNSHINE : Great for learning how to sign common childhood songs
MARLEE SIGNS – Shows you signs through video and is a great parent practice

WEB:

https://www.youtube.com/user/SmartHandsCA –  From the founder of Smart Hands (http://mysmarthands.com/) she talks about teaching your child, gives tips and videos on learning ASL
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW_NaMLBvcLcOl0WCxbhMww  – The two little hands baby  videos are the ones to watch.

ARTICLES:

 

Remember, signing with your baby can be a fun activity. It doesn’t have to look perfect or be stressful. Learn at a comfortable pace for you and your child, focusing on signs you think would benefit your family the most.