Signing with C

As part of Deaf Awareness Week, we welcome GLD team member and blogger, Mary Elizabeth. Here is a guest post originally published on 3 Times Blessed.

Deaf Awareness Week

It is Deaf Awareness Week this week! The point of this week is to raise awareness for signs of hearing loss and also Deaf Culture. I thought I would share a bit about our family’s journey with…

Sign Language

Between words and signs C has over 30 words to communicate with our family at under 15 months old. It has been incredible to watch her and quite often strangers will comment on it. She also doesn’t get frustrated the way that I remember A and E getting at this age. She can tell us she wants to eat, or that she wants water. The frustration really begins when she doesn’t get whatever it is that she wants, because she is the princess and has requested said item… Why would we not provide it?

How we started

In July, after we started with her hearing aids, we began to be set up with several programs in our state for children who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf. One program covered the cost of having a therapist come into our home once a week and help us with our signing. We had a few individuals but finally settled in with Miss M. She is fantastic! She has helped instruct me in ASL and incorporate it into my daily life. More than that, the therapist is able to recognize when C isn’t hitting a milestone that she needs to, or when her molds are getting too small for her ears.

We started by signing Mom, Dad and the name signs we had created for A and E. We also signed “dog” a lot, because we have two pups – Daisy and Simon. From there, we have expanded to signing books that C likes (Brown Bear, Brown Bear was our first book to sign) and routines. However, kids only learn what is modeled. That is how they pick up words when they are Hearing and how they pick up ASL at any hearing level. If we don’t use it, they will not.

Our family started signing when C was about 3 months old. It’s not like she started signing immediately, but she was familiarized with what we were doing and when we did it. So, we sign all the time. As I learned sign with the rest of the family, we tried to communicate via sign with each other. We would play games at dinner like picking a category and continuing to use a sign that fit in that category until we ran out. It was fun and we were busy learning a language! Now, we sign in the morning to C as we dress her. We sign at meal times and as we dress in the morning. We talk about the weather and sign about bathing rituals. The more I learn, the more often we sign.

The more that we sign, the more we retain and the more that C learns. It is fantastic that she can now let me know that she is ready to eat or is thirsty. C has never been a fussy baby but her ability to reach out and tell us what she needs reduces the fussiness even more. It has been a huge blessing to communicate with my one year old!

As I said above, we started signing with C when she was about 3 months old. When she was six months old, her first sign was Mom. About a month later she began signing dog insistently. Almost 8 months later, her favorite sign is most definitely dog. She signs dog for any animal, really. Now, she says “dog, dog” as she signs “dog”. By her first birthday, she had over a dozen signs including “more, nurse and all-done”.

Now

Now, C has a ton of signs. Some of these she uses daily, others she will use and then decide she doesn’t really require it. Either way, it is pretty neat! Every morning she wakes up and signs and says “dog, dog”. I sign to her that we are going to go change her diaper and then I ask her verbally and with sign if she would like to eat. She signs “eat” back to me. As we prep breakfast, I show her the fruits or other breakfast items that we are having and she will typically sign “more” or “all done” or “please” if she wants them.

I am shocked with how easy it is to communicate with her. She still fusses but nowhere near the children I have observed in her peer group or as much as her siblings have. We are convinced that signing will happen with all future children because of what a positive experience this has been!

Yesterday, we went to the zoo. Every single animal was a “dog”. That makes sense because this is what she has experienced. There is a beautiful bird exhibit where birds are flying all around you. C very quickly picked up the sign for “bird”. I have found that at this age, signing is very experiential.

My Tips

If you want to start signing with your little one, this link provides several useful signs and instructions on how to do them!

  • Don’t become discouraged if it takes your little one a while to start signing. They are learning so much about the world around them and we didn’t see our first signs until 6 months even though we started signing at 3 months!
  • Teach signs that you will use. If you never see fish, it might not be a useful sign.
  • As your child masters a sign, start a new one. You don’t want “more” to become a child’s universal sign for every need.
  • Have fun with your new communication tool!

Have you used baby sign? What were your thoughts about it?

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