Using sign language can serve as an important vehicle for tapping into functional communication, before children begin talking. There are several indicators you can look for, to know if your child may be ready!
- Sitting up well
- Using two hands to hold and play with rattles & toys
- Looking at the speaker
- Reducing frustration
- Facilitating language development
- Encouraging gesturing, pointing
- Encouraging word approximations, labeling and eventual talking
When beginning to sign with your child, it is best to start with practical, everyday words. We find when parents and caregivers use the same sign repetitively in everyday situations, toddlers begin making connections and approximating the signs demonstrated by the parents or the caregivers. While at first it may be a groping attempt, over time it becomes more refined and precise. As you integrate more useful signs, like the ones listed below, your baby can communicate his or her desires. Be consistent in using the corresponding sign and the spoken word, and before long, your child will follow suit! Laura Mize is an experienced preschool Speech Language Pathologist and she regularly impresses upon professionals and parents that imitating actions precedes imitating mouth movements or words! So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started learning signs that babies use regularly and get your little one talking!
We love the Signing Time Video series and love even more that there are so many free downloads available. Check the sight here for her top 10 signs and some free reproducibles, or buy some of the videos. As the Speech-Language Pathologists in our group provide therapy for many children with a variety of diagnoses, we have found these signs to be the most beneficial ones for late talker’s, children with Down syndrome and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Rachael graduated from Furman University with a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science in 2006. She later attended the University of South Carolina and received a Master of Science degree in Motor Control and Rehabilitation in 2009, as well as a Master’s of Speech Pathology in 2013. Rachael is highly qualified, as she has most recently attended continuing education classes on Dysphagia Diagnosis and Treatment in Medically Complex Patients: NICU-Teens; The Charleston Pediatric ENT Update; Application of the Passy-Muir Swallowing and Speaking Valves; Pediatric Trauma & The Road to Recovery: Infancy Through Adolescence.
Rachael comes to Sprout Pediatrics from the Children’s Hospital of Palmetto Richland. There she saw a variety complex cases stemming from multiple etiologies. She enjoyed her work there, but looks forward to being involved in her clients treatment and seeing them progress and master goals. Rachael says, ” I love kids! I love that I can teach their families about speech and language through play. I am also humbled to have the chance to give each child the tools they need for effective and safe eating, or helping them to reduce aversions and take the stress out of mealtime for the whole family.” She shares that Sprout’s mission to consider the long term application of therapy and quality of life for each child and their family is a high value for her as well. Rachael points out, “It is so important to have goals beyond just speech, language and eating and to really focus on what those skills look like once therapy is over.”
Rachael is married to Matt (2010) and has a son named Grafton who is 17 months old. They have two
dogs, Missy and Dublin. They enjoy cooking together and playing outside. She loves to read and drink
We cannot begin to tell you how thrilled we are to have this great resource come share with all of you! She is an invaluable resource to us here at Sprout Pediatrics and I know you will learn so much if you choose to invest in attending our next Challenger meeting! So won’t you please join us at the next Challenger Club meeting located at the Northwest Family YMCA. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 19 at 6:30 pm. You will have the opportunity to form connections with other special needs families, as well as acquire resources for the special needs community. Childcare will also be provided for this event.
Kim Conant (LPN), Palmetto Pediatrics’ special needs coordinator, will be discussing how to ensure your child is receiving the care that is needed, by coordinating care with your pediatrician. Kim Conant has experience working with over 1,000 special needs families at multiple offices in the area. In addition, she also has over 20 years of experience in pediatrics and the multifaceted nature of caring for families and children with special needs.
Her position allows for one person to be the primary facilitator for the care that your child receives. Kim coordinates the care of your child with the pediatrician, as well as multiple specialists within the medical community: such a therapists and physicians. She has a vast network of community resources at her disposal! Kim will also discuss the aspects of care one should expect from his or her pediatrician, in order to create the best outcome possible for your child. A family from the community will also share their experience of working with the office over the past 7 years.
Feel free to share this information with others and we look forward to seeing you there!
Challenger Club Flier
If you are a parent or professional working with typically developing young children or children who are challenged, you have probably been introduced to the notion of using sign language with them. As a pediatric team of professionals, we find sign language to be the one of the most exciting skills children learn and grow from using. We use sign language with our late talkers, our children who have signs of Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Down Syndrome, Autism, and many other developmental and genetic disorders. Here are some do’s and don’t of using sign language with young children.
Do introduce sign language as a way to give them a way to communicate their wants and needs. Some of the first signs we teach are milk, cracker, more and cookie! We find both the Wee Hands Online Dictionary and the Lifeprint websites to be invaluable! If a client is frustrated or expressing an extreme desire for a given object, we can quickly plug in the word and see a picture or video of the sign. While the Wee Hands Dictionary is good for the most useful toddler and children’s signs, some of our children might love grapes and this sign hasn’t quite made it to the dictionary and the Lifeprint dictionary is more exhaustive.
Don’t teach words that aren’t useful or don’t mean anything to them. If you are interested in learning specific words from a local professional here in the Midlands of South Carolina, we recommend the Signing Time Instructor – Jill Eversmann. Click this link to learn more about the classes she offers!
Do hand over hand demonstrate how to sign a word. Take their hands and do it with them and then stand in front of them and sign it again so they can see you doing the sign. It might take you doing it with them 7-10 times before you see them attempt to do it but then again, if it’s a highly motivating food, we have seen boys sign “candy or cookie” after one demonstration!
Don’t think they won’t sign if you have been trying for several months and not getting any results. Toddler’s need to be sitting up independently and be able to bring hands to mid-line to do many signs, so if you begin before these motor skills are possible, you may frustrate yourself.
Do clap and praise them as they begin imitating and using the signs spontaneously! When toddlers begin using signs spontaneously, care givers and parents can begin expanding their vocabulary to words like: stop, mine, please, thank you and night night! These powerful words give them a voice in their day to day lives and parents often report seeing their toddlers less frustrated. If they do continue to pitch a fit or whine, encourage them to use their words. Model the sign for what they want and make them sign so they can begin to see the usefulness. If you had a typically developing 3 year old, you would not allow them to cry and whine but would expect them to talk to you. Expect no less from a child who can sign, just adjust the talking to signing.
Don’t put them on display and have them perform for grandparents and friends. Allow them to show what they know as they request and use it naturally.
Do verbally say the word you are signing and expecting your baby to sign. As your baby begins to sign more and more and develop a vocabulary of 15-20 words, you will begin to hear some verbal approximations for the words they use most often or hear most often. They may say “muh” for more or “bah” for ball. Some later word approximations might include “op” for stop, “peas” for please and “tan too” for thank you! One of the common questions we get is “Will they ever talk if we teach them signs?” Absolutely! Sign language is just a visual and kinesthetic way to help facilitate your baby’s language skills. Teaching your baby to sign won’t keep them from talking any more than teaching them to crawl will keep them from walking!
Don’t discourage signing or verbal approximations! Toddler’s and young children often do not have the motor skills to precisely sign or say words, but accept their effort and know that they will get better and more articulate.
Take a look at this video and watch this two year old girl with Down Syndrome show you all the signs she knows on command! It’s difficult to hear but she signs grapes, please, milk and stop!
A few other useful signs we encourage through therapy are: help, open, close, book, on, in, dog, bird and music!