Are you my Mommy?

Are you my Mommy?
Are you my Mommy?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Baby Sign Postscript

This week was monumental...not in the climbing a mountain way but in the toddler way. But first, I need to give a little back story.

Given a family pattern of young speakers stubbornly waiting until they could speak sentences to utter much, I long ago began baby sign American Sign Language (ASL).  As a mostly SAHM and a lover of ASL, this decision was easy as I could not imagine entire days without communicating with the other biped in my house (I am still working on getting the 9.5 pound dog to use baby sign...he just stares at me...he's stubborn too).  I read about baby sign and the idea of using gestures seemed like it would lead to conversations involving pointing and whining (both of us that is), so I went with a ASL which is a comprehensive language.  ASL is beautiful in that so many signs are just common sense (you know hi and bye already.  Train for example is to pull the whistle and banana is to "peel" your pointer finger with the opposite hand.)  Initially, we began at 6 months per instructions from a book...ha! ha!  He was more interested in eating and people watching.  We re-started around 10 months and kicked into high gear after one year. 

Mr. B is now 25 months.  I have tried counting the number of signs he knows and when I write the list I add to it for a few days with Mr. B reminding me when I forgot something.  (paused typing to put my gymnast back in his crib and thus decided to try the list again....grand total for right now is 145, oops 146 signs since I just remembered that I forgot "turtle")  For the last 3 months, I have looked up only a couple of signs when I saw that he was becoming frustrated and needed a way to communicate.  The reason for the slowing down was that my prediction came true (yes, I know that I could have made this happen, but I found empirical research demonstrating that baby sign does not slow verbal language acquisition but does decrease toddler and infant frustration levels) [If you want a copy of the publicized research, I will be happy to email information].  We are proud receivers of the toddler lowered levels of frustration.  Mr. B is a content, happy child who rarely tantrums and any whining is solved when he is reminded to use words in some form.

We went in for the 2 year pediatric well child check and I will first sign that I am in favor of this type of care as it is preventive care and not sick care.  But, I go to each and every one with apprehension as my child's development and our parenting decisions are not the American norm beginning at birth.  (Mr. B nursed and stayed awake for almost all of two days, and then he decided to catch up on sleep, but this led to almost hitting the "too much weight loss" line.  By the 5 day old visit, he was on track and a big fan of full on mama milk.)  I knew this visit would focus on language development.  Although it turned out to not be what I feared, the doctor was concerned with his mere 15 word spoken vocabulary since his aforementioned 146 signs did not count.  I am left to wonder if the medical field is primarily concerned with children forming speech sounds aka phonological production and not language knowledge/acquisition (apparently sign is not fully recognized...I beg and plead to differ).

In one months time he has gone from 15 spoken words to 37 +/- a few given that he would not admit for an entire month that a certain person's name was not just babbling...stinker...cute stinker.  I should add that he can sign all his letters, make all their sounds, point out all capital letters aka "mama letters" whether you sign or say them, and point out 20 of his lower case letters aka "baby letters." He knows his numbers 0-12, shapes, and colors.  The doctor did not request an evaluation.  Ironic that part of me wanted to have one just to gain the first hand experience (hmmm, probably shouldn't make Mr. B the guinea pig).  He did however respond that Mr. B needed to verbalize two word sentences by 2.5 years. 

Well this week was our monumental event already.  Once upon a time, Mr. B and I were having our morning chat and cuddle and he asked about "dada."  I responded and then came his first sentence that I will never forget my entire life, nor will he as I plan to tell this story in the future.  Here goes and if you have sensitive ears you may want to look away for a moment.  Dada poop. With raised inflection on the end.

All in all, I am very pleased with ASL for Mr. B.  The following are some interesting results we have had.
  1. Less tantrums
  2. More 2 way communication
  3. Mr. B showing pride in himself
  4. Mr. B showing that he remembers the past through story telling
  5. Telling stories with sign and then making himself laugh
  6. Making requests
  7. Having choices such as preferred food for dinner or color of cup
  8. Mr. B getting to be a teacher to family members
  9. Finding out he knows more than one would think given his quiet demeanor
  10. Planning events, such as discussing the animals he would like to see at the zoo or what we would see on vacation
  11. Using mutli-modal learning with "seeing sign" "seeing the letter" "producing the letter sound" and hearing the letter name and sound
  12. Communicating to his buddies aka stuffed animals
  13. Entertainment in the car
  14. Learning house rules, such as not to feed the dog from the table
  15. More interaction when reading books as he likes to sign the words we read
  16. Naming objects on his own, such as particular books he prefers
The Compromise:  Taking time to look up signs to expand my own vocabulary.  Funny stares and questions from other people.  If you choose baby sign and have this problem, just tell curious people or nosy people that the parent not present is deaf.  and that will be that, no questions asked.  Some will bypass the questions and stares and go straight to expressing their opinion about how you are harming your child.  Please keep trudging forward as this path less taken is a worthwhile journey that is not arduous. 

The Sweet Reward:  See above, need I say more.  This is really only one years work, easier than any other school subject.

   P.S.  I am a little sad that we are entering the next stage where we focus on verbal language and slow down on introducing new signs (although 10 of his 37 spoken words are repeats of signed words). I have enjoyed immensely the baby sign portion of our lives.

1 comment:

  1. I've been signing a bit with Gabriel. It's hard to find the motivation to continue when it seems like it's not sinking in at all.

    Ugh to the doctor's expectations -- you've got quite an amazing little guy there.

    Though he said he won't order a screening yet, our doctor expressed concern at the 12-month well baby check b/c he likes to have them purposefully using "mama, dada, and one other word," at that age.