When my daughter was eight months old, we took a baby sign language class. Most of the kids there were several months older, but I was insistent that my pint-size girl learn the language early.
There’s nothing quite like being a mom who can’t hear her own child clearly. When she cooed and babbled, I strained to listen. I couldn’t imagine not hearing her say “Maw-Maw” for the first time.
Some people have asked me if my hearing aids help me hear everything. When it comes to my daughter’s delicate voice, even with the hearing devices in both my ears, I struggle to decipher what she is saying. High-pitched voices, like hers, are difficult for me to discern clearly.
So when I carried my tiny girl into the sign language classroom, someone asked me what my intentions were. Teaching a child in diapers to sign seemed ludicrous to someone who hadn’t walked in my shoes. Only a mother going deaf could emphathize.
I wanted to understand my child’s first words.
Here are a few signs we learned together:
BALL – Put hands together like a circle
MORE – Tap fingertips together
ALL DONE – Shake hands downward in front of chest
PLAY – Shake fists with the thumbs and pinkies pointing outward
Can you guess which sign is her favorite all these years later?
My second and third grandchildren were taught ASL Baby sign very young. Little kids can understand so much more than we give them credit for and so much earlier than we realize. The younger the better, as far as I am concerned. Just keep it up until they “get it” at whatever age and then they can communicate. It is so much better than waiting for speech to develop. 🙂
Marsha – That’s wonderful! It’s so fun to see our kids develop a love of sign, isn’t it?
Love it! 🙂 Mine also learned milk, no (including SHN which means shake head no), cookie, look, mine, please, sorry, share, toilet (though the latter not until closer to 3 years old). I knew the language really meant something when I observed them in nursery signing to workers and other crawlers like themselves. I ended up teaching some nursery workers some sign which convinced them to use it in their classes! 🙂
Go, Denise, go!
My daughter’s first sign was cheese at about 9 mo old. When she was 7 mo old I started baby signing to her and she would just look at me. Two months later she picked up a sign every couple of days. I’m HOH and i couldn’t understand her first attempts at verbal language until much later. She was such a happy baby because we were able to communicate. At her 1st year check up the nurse asked me if we were all ready for the shots. My daughter signed all done, bye bye, poop (directed at nurse). She called everything she didn’t like poop. Happy and Cat were signed for all things good. When she could talk and be understood by everyone else she would still sign with me. She took to both with ease. Kids are amazing.
Eve – Thanks for sharing. Yes, kids are amazing. 🙂
Never thought about using sign language to stimulate your child’s language development AND help you as a parent with hearing loss to understand your child. I got lucky…my son’s speech was very clear and intelligible from a early age so we understood one another quite well.
Glad communication worked well for you and your son, Peter!
Babies have the motor skills to sign before they can get the skills to form spoken language. It has been proven to lessen infants’ frustration (communicating easier) and has been shown to promote verbal speech in children who are speech delayed.
Melissa – Thanks for commenting. You bring up some excellent points about pre-verbal communication among babies.
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