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Signing With Babies And Children: November 2008

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Understanding the Signs

In any language, it is easier to understand a meaning of some thing when it relates to us.  If you were to learn a new word from a different language, it would help to have it explained in words that you already know.  This is the same for children. Every day they are learning new words and trying to put meaning to these words.

As caregivers, we have the opportunity in helping to create understanding and meaning to every day words by relating to our children with words they already know.  Using sign language helps to put this world of learning in a very visual interactive light!

Here are some examples of helping your children understand meanings of words with the use of American Sign Language.  

Remember to sign the word and then explain to your children what this word means with a use of words/signs they already know.

Patience: wait & nice
Respectful: listen & nice
Appreciate:  show & love
Responsibility:  special &  job (for you)

Written by Shawna Tran

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Please, THANK YOU, Sorry - Teach basic manners with sign language.

Thanksgiving gives families a chance to pause, think about all we have in our lives, and express deep gratitude.
We all share the goal of raising children who are well-mannered, kind, and perhaps can even share their toys without too much protest! Teaching gratitude starts from a very early age, but it can be a difficult endeavor. For example, many parents struggle between the desire to give their children everything and the knowledge that kids won’t get far in life with a sense of entitlement unaccompanied by good manners. Teaching gratitude happens most effectively in the simple moments, when we are thankful for the intangible (see examples below).
Emphasizing manners through sign language with babies and children teaches etiquette from a young age and it becomes a natural part of the way they interact with people. It gives visual support, to remind our little ones to be kind, and also makes it fun. Manners are an abstract concept, but kids will catch on when they watch you end every request by signing PLEASE. When your child hands you his or her toy, respond by signing and saying THANK YOU. It will become a habit and will make a difference in the long run.
My daughter, ZoĆ«, learned to sign PLEASE at 13 months. When she began to speak, she still signed and said PLEASE when she really wanted something. Somehow, she understood that signing AND speaking had more of an impact. I’m sure that you, too, can teach your child these important signs that will serve as a great foundation for good manners.

Here are a few basic signs to start with to teach children manners:
Meet and greet others: Hello & Good Bye
Behave in public places: Share, My Turn, Your Turn, Excuse Me.
Improve table manners: May I Be Excused, Thank You, Please.
Develop social skills: Share, Take Turns, Please, Sorry, Friend.

It's Time to Shine,


Monday, November 24, 2008

Gesture of Love

Why should hearing children learn sign language?

Playing in his crib at 10 months old as his mother folded laundry, Ezekiel calmly got her attention and signed "more music." Realizing only then that the mobile had stopped, his mom wound it up again and Ezekiel continued playing happily. A hearing child in a hearing family, he has been exposed to sign language since birth to aid in overall language development, early communication, and later acquisition of speech. Not only was this baby able to express his needs clearly without tears of frustration, but he also used a two "word" phrase at 10 months old. This level of language is rarely present until 18 months, or more typically two years of age.

How can Deaf children participate in and enjoy music?

Three year old Larry proudly led his integrated preschool class in "Old MacDonald" during the end of the year show for families. A deaf child of hearing parents, he first learned sign language in preschool. Larry's ability to express himself developed further through his exposure to music in a group and individual setting. Through signing songs and playing instruments such as drums and chimes, auditory discrimination improved, vocabulary flourished, interest in language and self esteem increased.

What is music mediated sign language instruction?

Maya, a two year old with delayed speech, was adopted as a baby from China. She has been exposed to sign language at home to aid in her overall language development and motivation to communicate. It was during the hello song in a music mediated sign language class that Maya first signed her own name; during a song about feelings she was able to sign and demonstrate the broad range of emotions.

Among the MANY benefits of music mediated sign language instruction: more rhythmic speech; growth in balance, spatial reasoning and motor skills.

For more articles about the benefits of baby sign language, music, and more, visit  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Toddlers learning phonics - the easy way!

“Multisensory Learning” is the buzzword in schools and Nurseries. Research has proven beyond doubt that if we want an efficient Learning environment for our children we HAVE TO involve auditory, visual and kinaesthetic stimuli.

I have conducted a pilot study with 12 children aged 2 years to 3.5 years to see how they respond to being taught phonics through BSL fingerspelling. It was a 6 week course, each session was 1/2 hour.
Focussing on just 7 letters, the course used games, songs and activities to reinforced the graphic, the sound and the fingerspelling (AVK)

The results have amazed the mums and myself!
After the course, out of 9 assessments I received back, the toddlers

  • knew all the 7 letters
  • could fingerspell most of them.
  • 5 children knew more than 10 letters
  • They all developed an enormous interest in the letters and their sounds around them
  • 4 children started to blend the sounds together and were able to read simple 3 letter words.

None of the currently used Phonics methods can claim to be AVK, AND a systematic spelling system AND inclusive of children who are already using BSL to communicate.

To find out more see
and watch

Friday, November 14, 2008

Making Cents Out of Counting Money

It's some times hard to teach the concept of money: a quarter equals twenty-five pennies, two nickels equal a dime, four quarters equal a dollar. Children at a young age can grasp the concept of money and make sense of how to count in fives, tens, twenty-fives and so forth with the use of signing numbers.

All our numbers can be signed on One hand. This is so useful in helping your child learn to count as they begin to understand the concepts of not only money but also adding, multiplying, and dividing.

Start by:
  • teaching your child numbers 1-10 in sign language
  • counting by 2's, explaining to your child that each time you sign the next number, go up by two
  • ask an adding multiples question such as "2+2+2" and count by multiples using signs
  • begin exploring the ideas of counting money "counting by 5, 10, and 25"
  • use the concept of counting money to teach the concept of multiplying and dividing: "two 10s equal 20 because 10 + 10 is 20" and asking "how many tens are twenty" as your hand is holding up the number sign two
I will demonstrate through the video below. Have fun making sense of counting with your little ones by using your Numbers in Sign Language.

Written by Shawna Tran.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baby Sign Language FAQs

Why are Baby Fingers classes based on American Sign Language? American Sign Language is the language of the Deaf, a true language with its own grammar and syntax. The signs are not made up. As Joseph Garcia stated regarding Sign with Your Baby programs: Since the birth of the United States, ASL has been evolving to become the accepted sign language in North America. It is now standardized throughout the United States and Canada. The advantage of using a standardized sign language as a foundation is that most people who share knowledge of that language will be able to identify and respond to the signs that your baby knows. ASL structure is compatible with the nature of language development in infants. One sign can relate an entire concept. Young children begin communicating using one-word sentences (or in this case, one-gesture sentences) to express complete thoughts or needs. ASL signs are also very iconic, in many cases resembling the objects or activities they represent. A foundation is provided for continued learning of ASL [or any language] in later years.
For more FAQs, articles, links, and helpful hints visit

Friday, November 7, 2008

Effective Communication for Growing Minds

Communication is an inherent need of all humans. It’s part of our DNA. Unlike reading a book or riding a bike – we are born communicating. Facial expressions, body movement, vocalizing and even grunting and crying are all forms of communication. An individual that is anti-social is still communicating through their resistance to human interaction.

For those of us that have been involved in a “serious” relationship at some point in our lives, we’ve more than likely experienced the communication technique referred to as “the grunt”. Though it is primitive and not overly effective in its usefulness, we seem to accept it as a form of communication as demonstrated in the following scenario: Male arrives to the dwelling place prior to female’s arrival. Upon entry, female asks, “How was your day, Honey?” of the male strategically positioned in front of the television in the den, remote in hand clicking feverishly. Male responds with “uughh”. Female accepts this guttural noise as “Fine and yours?” then proceeds to explain the significant happenings of that days’ journey in her life.

Typically developing Infants and Toddlers have an amazing capacity for learning. We know from scientific research studies that we develop our motor skills months before we have the ability to speak words, especially words in their proper context. Furthermore, infants are visual learners to begin with. Then the sense of touch takes over and lastly the auditory portion of learning will kick in. It’s strange that our educational system is largely built on “lecture”, when we are from birth, naturally visual/kinesthetic people.

Understanding some simple mechanics of the brain with regard to the language areas will help to paint a more complete picture of language acquisition. Our brains hold and store language information mainly on the left side, also called the “left hemisphere”. At different positions within the left hemisphere are significant areas or buckets (as I like to think of them visually), where the physical support (tongue and lip movement), auditory support (comprehension and understanding) and production support (actual speech producing area) are held. Each spoken language that is acquired has its own bucket. These buckets again are stored on the left side of our brains. Language acquisition begins as early as 5 to 6 months of age in typically developing infants. The brain categorizes sounds and noises in its most basic process of acquiring language. This is called “phonology”. Creativity, memory and movement are held on the right side or hemisphere of our brains.

Teaching an infant or child American Sign Language creates buckets in both hemispheres as American Sign Language is a language with syntax and linear processing. However because of its gestures (signs) it is a “movement language” - right side of the brain stuff!

Additionally, “Midline: crossing is key in language development.” The reason is because when you cross your arms over the “midline” of your body (the Adams apple to the belly button) the right and left lobes of your brain beef up their communication with each other and form super highways known as the synapses.

So for a child to grasp language and expand vocabulary, American Sign Language creates more resources in the brain for the brain to find things—like letters and their sounds. This develops what the Education World calls “Reading Readiness”. It actually does this at a faster rate than typically developing children with no American Sign Language background.

Using American Sign Language with infants and toddlers is proven to be an extremely effective form of two-way communication. It helps to reduce frustration for both the baby AND the parent. This, in itself, is a wonderful gift—having calm parents and a clam baby. It’s useful in continuing the bond with mother to baby, and is helpful to create father to baby and baby to parent bonding.

Shortened version here. For full length visit

Written by: Kelly Barnhart, Learning Style & Communication Specialist and Children's book author ( &

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Signing and adopted children - Chloe's story

The case of a little girl called Chloe really brought home the benefits of Signing with adopted children. Chloe was 22 months when she was adopted from China.
She joined my Baby Signing classes a week after she arrived in the UK. There was very little body language between Chloe and her 'new mum' never mind any eye contact or signs of bonding. Both mum and daughter looked very unhappy.

The subject that day was ‘Food’. I had brought different types of food in to show the children and to teach the signs. Obviously, ‘Food’, ‘More’, and ‘Drink’ was also taught. When we finished, Chloe was sitting very close to me, pointing, and even smiling! When it was time for free play, she turned to her mum and asked her for food…biscuit…more…
The following week the difference was amazing! Chloe sat on her mums lap, held lovingly, there was eye contact, some smiles and even a kiss!

Several weeks later I had a letter from Emma. “Thank you for giving us the gift of Signing with Chloe. To be honest, before I came, I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life. The situation brought our family to breaking point. Now that we can communicate with her, everything has changed. Signing has saved my marriage and given me a bond with my beautiful daughter!” This was 1 year ago. Chloe has since integrated well into her Nursery and is communicating fluently -mostly in English but still using some signs occasionally.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Routine Signs

From a mom active in the Baby Fingers program in NYC: Every morning, I make coffee or we go to Starbucks. I always sign "coffee." I always thought, "Why do I care if he knows this sign?" But I went ahead and did it - he seemed interested, and eventually started doing the sign for coffee himself! One morning, it was getting late and I hadn't had any coffee yet. Ayers and I were just rocking and relaxing, but he kept looking at me and doing a sign. I couldn't figure out what sign he was doing. A lot of his signs look alike, especially when he first starts using them, though I usually can figure them out through context. With this sign, I was drawing a blank. So as we just continued rocking, he signed this unknown sign, and I told him I was sorry but I wasn't sure what he was saying. Finally, out of the blue, I said, let's go to Starbucks and get some coffee. Well, he got really excited and started doing "that" sign again! He was really "talking" to me as if to say, "Yes, Mommy, I was wondering when you were going to get your coffee!!!" Remember how important routines are at home, yours and your baby's. Whether it's one sign or a handful, signing during routine times of your day will be a start to solidifying new vocabulary and supporting communication.