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Signing With Babies And Children: March 2009

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Colorful World Around Us

I have two young boys, the ages of five and three. They enjoy playing different characters. Their most recent character roles have been "tiger" and "bug." My youngest makes sure to remind me every time I call him by his actual name that his name is "tiger."

I enjoy hearing their ways of coloring up the world around them. They also have been able to bring more than one world together such as the other day when I heard the following conversation between the two boys:

"I'm tim."
"And I'm cam."

I know my husband speaks Vietnamese to the boys and they understand the language, but this was one of the first times I heard them choosing to use Vietnamese words within their own conversation along with the signs. My oldest signed "purple" as he said "tim" (describing his "bug" color) and my youngest signed "orange" happily as he said "cam" (describing his "tiger" color).

I continued to them ask them what were some more colors in Vietnamese, and we enjoyed signing them together. All along I knew that sign language was a great tool in bridging the gaps between two worlds of languages. And as this gap is growing smaller for my boys the older they get, it will serve as a bridge, for me, their mom^_^, as I hope to some day learn the language too.

Written by Shawna Tran: and

Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't Mess With The Bedtime Routine! (hehe)

I wanted to share this great ‘aha’ signing moment that a My Smart Hands graduate shared with our London instructor. I love hearing stories like this!

“The other night we were putting our daughter to bed (skipping the bath because me and my husband were too tired). She was fussing and crying, which she never does at bedtime. We couldn't figure out what was wrong with her until she started signing "Bath" (or her version of bath - but close enough that we knew that was what she wanted - her hands were flat rubbing up and down on her chest). If she hadn't been able to tell us she wanted a bath she probably would have cried all night and we wouldn't have known what was wrong. We didn't offer her a bath...and she had never used the sign before. But I guess she had never had to use it before because we give her a bath every night and sign bath to her every night before her bath. It was the best signing moment we've had yet!!! In the morning when we wake up I ask if she wants Milk, Water or Juice...and she lets me know by signing what she wants. It's hard to get her to sign on demand ... she only signs when she wants something - which is fine with me… but disappointing when others want to see her sign.”

It’s always great to hear stories like this because other parents can really see how useful signing can be! I’ll share more stories like this with you as they come in!

Laura Berg, Founder, My Smart Hands

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

 ASL  benefits bi-lingual families!

“I'd totally recommend signing with bilingual children. Signing not only gave us our first means of effective communication, but was also definitely a nice way to confirm that [our son is] comprehending both English and Japanese -- the two languages he is most exposed to. In fact, [he] has recently started responding with sign when spoken to in Cantonese also...thus confirming he comprehends all three languages just fine.”

“My 2 yr old speaks to me in Portuguese and to his dad in English, sometimes using signs too as we are both hard of hearing. He always uses ASL with my Deaf friends.”

“What's been especially helpful is that, since Aries is being raised bilingual, for me to show the sign whenever I say the Russian word for an object, and when I say the English one. I think it really helped cement the idea that they stood for the same thing.”

“If you speak English and your partner speaks Spanish, when introducing a word such as "milk" you would say the word "milk" in English and introduce the sign for that word. Your partner would introduce the word "milk" in Spanish ("leche") while also using the same sign for "milk"."

Yes, it's extremely useful to use the same signs with the two different languages that your child is exposed to--it bridges the gap, decreasing confusion and frustration while increasing learning opportunities and language development.

On our Baby Fingers sign & song DVD, we teach our color song in English, Spanish, and ASL.  Bi-lingual families in our program have benefitted, and have also translated it into other home languages!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Let's Grow with the Grahams:

I wanted to share with you recent videos were shared with BabySignShine from Kelli Graham, mom of three, who signs with her three kids: Haviland, Jackson and Bennet.

"Bennett is the youngest of our three children- all of which have signed. He started signing at 10 months and while very verbal now at 23 months he still enjoys signing. I know that signing enhanced his verbal skills and have loved the journey!"

Bennett- age 10 months signing MORE:
Click here or on the picture to watch Bennet signing .

Bennett- age 19 months signing MILK PLEASE: Here is a video of Bennett asking, or rather demanding for milk. The boy knows what he wants when he wants it. At least I got a "please" out of him. :)
Click here or on the picture to watch video.

This one is of Jackson when he was 13 months. He was just learning to sign and would "babble" with his hands. This was in 2004. There is no sound on this clip - old digital camera"
Click here or on the picture to watch video.

And lastly, Haviland at age 7 months signing her first sign "milk". She was my earliest signer by far, and hasn't stopped talking since! This was in 2005. No sound on this one either.
Click here or on the picture to watch video.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I wish I could speak another language...

My husband and I are from Germany originally, living in Austin, TX, USA. You can tell from our accent that we are not native English speakers and of course that results in lots of conversation openings from total strangers (supermarket, playground,...).
First question is: Do your kids speak German as well?
Yes, we do speak exclusively German at home.
Next statement from the other person: I wish I could teach my kids another language.

My answer is YOU CAN!!!
American Sign Language (ASL) offers you this opportunity. The beauty of it is that you don't need to be an expert at ASL to teach your children the basics. May it be only a few signs or a few sentences, you are building the foundation for another language.

And don't forget, you are never too young or too old to learn another language. Teaching ASL to your preschooler or elementary school child is as rewarding for both of you as teaching ASL to your baby!

I find it very exciting to teach ASL to pre-K and elementary school children. They have so many questions on where this language comes from, how Deaf people live, how they interact, what their culture is like. My oldest son, a 1st grader by now, is as motivated to learn ASL as he was when he was a baby. I have 2 more children (daughter who is 4 and a son who is 2) and they all love signing.
I am pregnant with twins right now and once they are born and start their own journey of learning ASL, I will post updates. I am so curious to see if the twins will adopt American Sign Language as their secret language to communicate between each other.

Good luck on your signing journey!
And remember, ASL is accepted as a foreign language!!!

Just for the Fun of It

Signing has multiple purposes. We have come to find that signing has the ability to allow our children to communicate at an earlier time in their development than ever before. It becomes much of a gift. But it’s more than a gift of communication, it lends itself to a world of bonding and having fun where fun may not have been thought possible.

For example, this season, for our family, has shown itself to be a sick one. My 11 month old daughter and I were at the doctor’s office two days ago. She had had a consistent fever and was breathing quite deeply and fast with a cough.

She was trying to keep in there as we waited for the doctor to make his debut by opening that little door that stared us in the face as she was embraced in her mother’s love.

Well, as a mother, embracing doesn’t always leave your child with the comfort you had hoped to sustain you for the time being. She began to be wiggly and agitated.

I had one of those “lovies” with a small stuffed animal attached to a small blanket in my purse. I decided to play a game.

As we sat, I began to put the “lovie” below my knees where she could not see it. I had one had free to sign “WHERE.” Without the sign “where,” the game would not had involved her attention as much (including my own attention and ability to perk up for both our well beings).

I would say “where” as I signed “where”... my finger moving itself back and forth multiple times giving myself more encouragement to continue on with this simple game. For myself, with just a simple sign used, the game became more engaging and therefore more desirable to play.

As I would move the “lovie” and make a “swoosh” sound as it would rise up from beneath her eye level, I realized that even in the most unlikable situations, moments can become memorable and engaging.

I can remember the sweet bonding time we had together instead of the anxiety that was creeping in because of my little daughter being sick and waiting for the doctor.

Sign just for the fun of signing... and enjoy the engaging way it allows you to bond with each other.

Written by Shawna Tran: and

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sign Language Great for ALL!

I wanted to share an email I received the other day from a mom who began using sign language with her son after seeing Fireese sign on You Tube (I’ve removed names for privacy sake):

“Laura, I wanted to let you know how much you've helped me with my son. He is almost 4 years old now. He is a high-functioning autistic child. He was also born tongue-tied, and has a hard time forming our everyday sounds. At age 2 1/2, he had not slept for six months more than 2-3 hours at a time. Neither was I, of course! You can imagine how that sleep deprivation, coupled with a child who couldn't speak intelligibly anyway, had my husband and I at our wit's end.

One day in September 2007, I was browsing the Internet, when I came across the video of Fireese at 12 months old, doing all these signs! I called my son over and together we watched the video several times. He LOVED it! Within 45 minutes, my son was able to start communicating with me like never before! I could understand him when he needed a drink, or a diaper change, or his favorite toy (a pink monkey!), or to be left alone.

I realize that you may not realize this, or believe you're just using your own talents, but you and your beautiful daughter are angels to me!

My son ended up getting a speech therapist who provided us tons of flash cards with signs on them to learn. He will be 4 years old in June, and I'm now looking to find ASL classes to keep up with him!

I don't know where we'd be today if we hadn't found your video online - I really
don't. Thank you so much for taking the time to put it up and share it. I will always appreciate it!”

This email made my career and it’s emails like this one that make me so happy that I began posting videos of Fireese showing what children are capable. I hope this email encourages all parents to sign with their children; it can be such a useful tool to ALL!

by Laura Berg; Founder of My Smart Hands, 'educating young minds'

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Starting to Sign....

At two years old, my younger son was finally able to keep his center fingers down to sign "I Love You."  Until that time, he signed it with an open 5 hand.  Both of my children demonstrated understanding my signs around 4 - 5 months.  They began to use signs at 6 1/2 months, and put two signs together around 9 - 10 months.

Remember something very important--- they saw me signing since the moment they were born.  I already knew ASL... I didn't have to learn a new language and way of communicating at the same time I was learning to be a new mommy.  

So relax.  Give yourself time to become comfortable signing.  Enjoy the process.  Give your baby time to take it all in--- and once you think he/she understands you, give him/her the opportunity to express needs & desires.  

We have had children in Baby Fingers classes begin to sign at 8 months, and others not until 18 months.  There have also been children who never signed but began speaking-- really clearly speaking-- at 15 months.  Their  parents directly credit the exposure to sign and the focus on language in general.  

As Etel said so elequently below, there are benefits at every age and stage of development.  So expose your child to language from day one, and to signs as early as you are able... that could be at 3 months or at 2 years.  And again, enjoy the process... you will enjoy the results!

To read my Mother's Journal of my children's sign development, take a look at the OUR STORY page on  Happy signing!  :) Lora

Monday, March 2, 2009

What is the earliest age that I can start Sign Language classes?

I get asked this question regularly by curious parents who are eager to start signing with their baby or child. I truly love this question, but you might be surprised to learn that there is not one correct answer.

What do the experts say?
The average recommend age is 6-9 months. Why? By this age, babies are usually developed enough to sit by themselves and point to things. When you think about it, pointing to an object is actually the baby’s first sign. What she’s trying to say is, “Mommy, look at this!” or “Daddy, I want this!”

My belief is that babies can and should be exposed to signing before they actually produce their first sign. Just like in talking, we start to talk to our children from day one (and sometimes even while still in utero!), obviously way before they can develop speech of their own.

Parents in my programs:
Families join my classes at every age and stage. From pregnancy to 6 months or even at 16 months of age or older. Each family benefits from the process in a different way and at different developmental stages of their child. Many parents choose to take the class twice or three times and gain new experiences as their baby changes.

My conclusion:
The answer rests with the parents. Are you willing to sign every day with your child? Are you committed to communicate with your child beyond verbal words? These are all questions to answer for yourself before deciding when to start this wonderful journey of communication and connection.Are you a parent who is anxious to see your child signing right away? Then you may want to wait until your child is a bit older. Or do you have the patience to sign to your baby and wait until she is ready and physically able to produce signs? If so, then you can get started right away.
I do not believe in ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ – you are the expert on your child and your instincts will lead the way.

Click here to read my article about the right age.