Do’s and Don’ts of Sign Language with Young Children

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Julieanne signing title

 

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!

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Columbia Pediatric Therapy group Welcomes New Speech Language Pathologist – Ashley Hipp

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Ashley Hipp, MSP, CCC-SLP

Ashley Hipp, MSP, CCC-SLP

As a leading pediatric therapy company in the midlands of South Carolina, we take seriously the need to hire highly qualified individuals who will work well with our families.  We believe every child can make progress and we greatly appreciate the trust our families have in our team approach for service delivery! Sprout Pediatrics continues to grow and here is our latest team member to join the family! Here’s Ashley’s biographical information.

I am a speech-language pathologist who loves working with children. I started off my career as a speech-language pathologist in a nursing home, and it did not take long before I transitioned back. Serving children and their families is my passion.

Currently, I work in a local private practice serving children age birth-15, and I am very excited to begin working with Sprout on Fridays. My main interests with speech therapy include: expressive/receptive language disorders, speech/articulation disorders, and pragmatic deficits. I have experience working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, articulation disorders, voice disorders, apraxia, feeding difficulties, and expressive/receptive language disorders. I love to help children reach their full potential and provide parents/caregivers with the information and tools needed to do so.

Originally from Florence, SC, I attended undergraduate school at Clemson University, where I studied Early Childhood Education. From there, I attended graduate school at the University of South Carolina where I received my Master’s degree in Speech Therapy. My husband, Derek, and I got married in August 2012 and currently live in Lexington, SC. I enjoy spending time with my family, walking my dog (Tucker), and going to Clemson football games.

I am so excited to have the privilege to work with the staff at Sprout Pediatrics and strive to be a great addition to their wonderful team of therapists!

Books don’t have to break the Bank!

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At Sprout Pediatrics we focus on therapy with developmentally appropriate practices in mind, so we love books! Books are great for expanding vocabulary and teaching language concepts.

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For example, we might use the bunny book in the photo to teach animals or work on animal sounds with an Apraxia client. Or for a developmentally delayed client we might use the Dr.Seuss book to teach body parts or following directions! Our Autism clients need work on answering questions and general language development, so the Veggie Tales books are a wonderful tool.

One big thing most families forget is that having a variety of books around the home doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The Library is a wonderful resource as one can check out 30 books for 3 weeks! Pull out ten new books a week for free! Or zip by your local thrift store and check out their selection of children’s books. Often times families outgrow books and they are still in good repair. We also hit up TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and Tuesday Morning as these stores often offer books at a discounted rate. Oh and don’t forget Amazon as we find books for .01 regularly…shipping is 3.99 but it’s still a good deal on most books.

Quick Tips of What to do as You Read:
Read, read, read!
Have children 18 months and younger turn the pages or pat the picture after you do.
Point to pictures and name what you see
Ask your child to point to the rabbit, the tree, or the girl.
Ask simple ‘what’ questions about the story and then ask ‘How many’ questions.

Speech Development of Babies: Birth to 6 months

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Speech development of babies!

By the end of six months, your child may:

Beginning smiling at you and favorite toys
Startle when they hear loud or strange sounds
Begin to find their own voice by crying differently for different needs & by cooing vowel sounds
Listen when spoken to or quiet when sung to
Appear to distinguish parents voices from others’ voices
Continue talking to themselves by finding consonant sounds b and g
Also may begin to form syllables by joining the vowels to those consonants
Will look in the direction of a sound or familiar voice
Use facial expressions when hearing sounds of various toys
Use their voice in a happy way (panting & kicking) or whine when upset
May acknowledge inflection changes in your voice
Attend to and/or listen to music

Most children will exhibit most of these milestones by six months of age. If your baby is not able to do all of these, but are progressing through these stages slowly, they may have a speech delay. See your pediatrician for more specific questions on the development of your baby!

Welcome to Sprout Pediatrics!

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It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child and it is perhaps never more true than in the life of a family with a special needs child.

At Sprout Pediatrics our core beliefs are founded in the belief that we can achieve the Lord’s mandate in Matthews 25:14-28, to reach the potential He has placed in each of us. We believe that in our partnership with families and resources within the community we can achieve success in this high calling.

A majority of my 17 year career as a Physical Therapist have been focused on function and the home environment. My passion has always been to use what we have within our immediate environment to improve function. As it pertains to very young children this results in more family involvement and education as well increased active participation by the child because they are familiar with their surroundings.

We are of the belief that a variety of interventions bring the best outcomes. As a result we are always looking for new and innovative ways to redefine Pediatric treatment. This has resulted in products such as Cuddlecraft, Speechflix and Community Hotspots that are all unique to our organization.

Because information is now so readily available through social media and the internet we attempt to filter and provide good information to our families. This is accomplished through our facebook, twitter and pinterest pages. Please feel free to ask questions or participate in our ongoing discussion on those pages. Your experiences are unique and matter to us:

http://www.facebook.com/sproutpeds Twitter: @sproutpeds http://www.pinterest.com/sproutpeds

Rhyno Coetsee PT
Founder and Physical Therapist

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