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Signing With Babies And Children: December 2009

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Give the Gift of Language

The holidays bring a spirit of giving. I thought about the gift of language and how through communication, we understand each other more and draw closer to each other.

And as the new year is approaching, I strongly encourage those of you at home who know more than one language, to strive and find out what works for you in teaching those languages.

This does not work for every household, but between my husband and I, I speak English to our children and he speaks Vietnamese. I predominantly am the one teaching sign language along with those spoken languages, and my husband tries to use the signs he knows to bridge the two languages together.

I realize that with giving the gift of language, my daughter of 20 months, is choosing which communication method works best for her as she is bridging the three languages together in her own way.

For instance, when she was not able to vocally produce the word “dirty,” she simply said the Vietnamese word for dirty which sounds like “yuh.” Around the age of one, as I would say "dirty" and sign, she would say "yuh" and sign dirty. She understood that all three languages meant the same thing.

At other times, when she was not able to vocally produce a word, she would sign that word. She signed “milk” for a very long time, and then all of the sudden around 16 months, I noticed she was not signing “milk” any more. It was because she was saying “milk.”

And some times my daughter chooses her own language... body language. For instance, my daughter doesn’t say the word “frog” in Vietnamese or English, nor does she use the sign, but she does insist on bouncing her whole body up and down while saying “ribbit, ribbit” each time she sees a frog. She’s communicating and giving me a gift of laughter.

The power of communication is in her hands... in many different ways.

Happy Holidays! Written by Shawna Tran:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just Sign It

As your little one is maturing and finding new adventures and discoveries of life (such as the discovery of “candy” this holiday season^_^), it not only brings the opportunity to teach new words but to introduce these words with signs at the same time.

*A cold late afternoon brought my daughter and I to our back yard where she kept saying “dirty” as she pointed to the leaves. Last year when there were leaves on the ground, she was only 6 months old, so this time, she was well of age to understand “tree” and “leaves” as I pointed to the both and signed each word. Then upon coming inside she saw big brother with candy in his hand. SO, I took the same opprotunity to sign cany since I was going to give her one.

I realized within a twenty minute time frame, I was already teaching her three new signs. As little eyes mature and observations run wild, enjoy the learning opportunity for not only your child but for yourself. Learning a new language can be fun and exciting for both of you.

Here are three tips in making signing fun:

1) Obtain a small notebook or use your computer to jot down three to five words a week that you’d like to introduce or teach the sign to your child

*as you strive to find ways to teach these signs, don't forget to jot down the unforeseen signs that you were able to teach that week; tree, leaf, and candy

2) Make a goal when introducing a new sign to sign and say it at least three times

*"there's the leaves?" "yes, those are leaves... are they dirty?" "hold the leaf."

3) Keep a log of what signs you have introduced to your child... realize how many words you have already introduced and test yourself to see if you can remember all the signs to those words

*if you forget the sign or don't know it yet such as when your child is pointing to a leaf and asking what it is, don't be afraid to look up the sign and teach her the sign at a different time

*you could keep a separate log of the words you did not know but want to eventually learn

Please share your own tips with us! We’d love to hear and see^_^!

As some of you may be fluent in ASL and others still learning,

here is a list of five online ASL dictionary sites:

ASL Browser

Signing Savvy




Written by Shawna Tran:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Debate Continues...

There has been lots of research on the effect of using augmentative or alternative communication methods (like signing) on the spoken language development of children. However, I've never seen any that suggest that using sign or other methods delays speech -- in fact, just the opposite. Learning to communicate in any form, develops the language areas of the brain, so that when the motor systems are ready for verbal speech, words and meanings have already been established. All that's left to do - is to associate sounds with them. Kids having a head start in using sign have an advantage when they do begin talking.

There has never been a case in all the literature, of a child who preferred to use sign (or any other non-speech system) after developing normal speech. Remember - communication is inherent! It's on our DNA. We want to communicate. Using ASL with children of any age only assists and advances this process for all involved!

Kelly English Barnhart, MA
Author: "Crossing Hands Friends"