Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baby Sign

This is one of the rare parenting topics that doesn’t cause much of an uproar (at least I don’t think it does…) It’s not like breastfeeding, sleep training, or discipline strategies.  You are either a set of parents who sign to your baby or you aren’t.  No big deal either way.  Well in the house, we are all about the baby signing.

Want to know how it all started?  Well you are here, so you mine as well sit back and read.  Six years ago we invited some friends over for dinner.  These friends had a baby who was just under a year old.  Brent and I were newlyweds.  We barely knew what work it took to keep a marriage strong, much less keep a baby alive, so when these friends started using sign language with their baby, we were floored.  I quickly wondered if their baby had a hearing impairment.  Nope.  They found a bunch of positive research on the topic and figured they would give it a try. 

Fast forward 4 years.  Mallory was born in January, and one thing as new parents Brent and I knew without a doubt, we were going to give baby signing a try. We bought one book and followed it.  The key to a successful journey with signing with your baby is making this new form of communication a habit.  By May Brent and I had made it a habit to start signing to her.   If the baby sees or hears it enough (just like any second language) they will pick it up.  I was beyond amazed when my 4 month old squealed with delight when we showed her the sign for “milk” before we gave her a bottle.  She was getting it!!!  This was just the beginning of an incredible learning journey we went on with Mallory.  When we were all done signing she had learned over 50 signs and used them regularly until spoken words took over.  It was so cool (for lack of a better word) watching my 13 month old put two word signs together asking for “more please” using her hands.  AMAZING.  In our opinion this catapulted her language skills both receptive and expressive. Mallory was able to come up to me at 11 months and sign “eat”—she would then crawled to her high chair and wait.  She was so young, but understood so much. 

Before Mikayla was born, one of the things I was most excited about was signing with her.  She was not only going to have her parents teaching her, Mallory was also going to be an awesome sign language teacher.  Then Mikayla was born…  Clearly, she is our “two daughters could never be so different” child.  I am not going to lie, I was nervous.  I was nervous she was going to struggle with each milestone, much less grasp sign language.  We tried to start signing with Mikayla at about 4 months, hoping to (once again) make it a household habit.  Eventually, the habit stuck.  It wasn’t as easy this time around.  Our house is busier and with Mikayla’s allergies I had more on my mind then signing milk each time I sat down to feed her.  (Is this milk going to make you sick? Is this the bottle you will throw up all over me?  Is the sign for goat milk different then regular milk?)  

But it came. And we stuck with it.  Now, she is at the beginning stages of really getting it.  She sees her dog and immediately slaps her leg with excitement (the ASL sign for dog) She looks to me and (most of the time) thinks about what she wants and how to get it.  Then, out of her learned experience, she signs for eat, drink, or more.  These are the moments with this little girl, that make all those days on end of questioning if what I was doing was really going to work or make her feel better, seem like a distant memory.  She is learning and she is loving it.  All my worries about milestones are floating out the window…

1 comment:

Tom, Jaime, Kendra said...

She definitely lets you know when she is hungry. Hope to see all of you soon!