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Signing With Babies And Children: February 2010

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Even in Utero

Parents make an inpact–even in utero.

We know that, as expectant mothers, we need to be acutely aware of what we eat and drink, what medications we take, how much to exercise, what to avoicd, etc.

It’s also important to remember that our emotions effect our developing baby–and by 20 weeks, the baby can hear our voices. Singing and playing music can make a lasting impression.

My older son was born via unexpected c-section, so my husband was the first to hold him. Behind me, I heard Zeke’s crying suddenly stop as Ian began to sing to him. He clearly recognized his daddy’s voice–Ian had been singing into my belly daily for 41 weeks!

During my 2nd pregnancy, Zeke sang into my belly along with Ian. I had a V-bac and was able to hold Sian right away. He recognized all our voices, and even seemed to favor some of the songs we had sung most often. Both the boys study music now and love to sing.

Not surprisingly, a very early sign they both used was “music.” :)

Read more at 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly... & The Cute!

Join me in my quest to find the most acceptable sign image. I write children's books, curriculum and develop signing materials for the Hands 4 Learning website. Over the past 5 years, I’ve been searching for just the right “look” for static signers. I’ve seen all kinds!

One of the first, literally over 20 years ago, was your standard pencil or line drawings.

It’s clean and easy. Simple enough for an artist (not even a great one) to do rather quickly. I’m no artist – but given enough paper and time… I could produce these, especially after my one-semester Art and Drawing class I took in college.

Next came the “Scary Clip Art” looking adults.

I develop my materials for children, their parents and Educators – kids don’t need fierce scowling grownups looking as if they’re hurling signs (quite possibly gang style) in their direction.

We saw some improvement to the “Line Drawing” style as we moved to a much more artful or even soft cartoon looking child. They did get something write – the kid. But at times I find the fat fingers, short arms and frighteningly large noggins over played. I realize my own infant started her signing process utilizing “Sign Approximation” but do I need to see it on a published level?

Yikes – then we went “SUPERHERO” with the Avatar look. Wouldn’t show this to my 3 year old in a storybook – let alone, see an entire movie of them!

But fear not!!! I think I found what we’ve been looking for! May I present the “The Hands 4 Learning Little Signers”. They are children. They are accurate. They look like my 5 year old’s kindergarten classmates. And these can help Moms and Dads, too.

I’m curious to get your thoughts! What’s your best search on a “static” sign image?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Babies: Prewired to Learn Language

How is it that children as young as three years of age are speaking in full sentences and expressing all their needs with little or no difficulty? Language systems are extremely complex, and yet, infants and toddlers are able to grasp the phonemic combinations and the grammatical rules to be able to communicate with near fluency. Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT in the 1960’s made major discoveries in the area of child language development when he proposed that language ‘was an innate property of the human species’. Infants’ brains are actually prewired for the learning of language. That is not to say that their brains are prewired with language, rather their brains are prewired for the LEARNING of language. Babies are influenced by the language that they are exposed to; their ability to learn the languages that they are exposed to, is made possible by their predisposition to decipher the complexities of language.

If a baby were placed in a room with no interactions, that baby would not come out speaking a language. On the contrary, babies who are deprived of human interaction, show significant delay in their language acquisition and in fact such deprivation has a negative impact on their brain development. In other words, the first three years of a baby’s life are critical in establishing neural pathways necessary for language and brain development, as demonstrated in the 1997 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care.

Numerous studies have shown that the effects of language stimulation and the growth of brain pathways are critical in the first three years of life. Placing a child in front of a television or a computer does not promote language development the way verbally interacting with the child enhances brain development. Likewise, an environment that exposes the child to sign language - spatial verbalizations and a language system with linguistic structure - as demonstrated in Susan Goodwyn, Ph.D. and Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.’s study found when examining children, ages 3, 4 and 8 that children who learned sign language out performed children who had not been exposed to sign language on every cognitive, linguistic and intellectual level

Monday, February 8, 2010


You are signing with your baby for quite some time, and waiting for the day she will sign back. One day, here it is… your baby is attempting a sign. Your initial response, “was that really the sign for MILK?” “Was he really signing MORE?” I often say to parents, if you think it is an attempt to communicate, it is a sign! Now, respond with positive reinforcement.
Often times your baby’s sign doesn’t really look like the sign that you’re signing. Due to your child’s developing dexterity and fine motor skills, she cannot quite grasp the exact formation. While your baby tries to mimic your sign, the sign may look different. You may ask yourself,” does my baby really signing or just playing with his fingers?”
For example, the sign for MORE is to bring all five fingertips from one hand to the five fingertips of the other hand and tap them together. Many children will approximate the sign into one fingertip onto the palm of the other hand.
See pictures: all children sign MORE.
Approximation is signing! It is almost like saying dada for daddy at first. Please, do not manipulate her hands to form the right sign. Keep demonstrating the correct formation, encouraging your child to sign, and the right hand shape will come with time. This is one of the reasons that it is important to sign ASL so everyone will sign the same way without modifying the sign by their needs.
By accepting your child’s approximations, and encouraging her to keep signing, you will reduce her level of frustration. Consistency is the key. If you use the ASL version repeatedly, your child will eventually follow your lead and sign that version.

Let the Sign Shine!

Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Accepting Me, Accepting Others Unlike Me

Some benefits of signing and learning more than one language seem evidently obvious at times. Consider when two children are in the midst of trying to express their wants and needs. One is pointing while grunting or making a noise that seems rather uncomfortable whereas the child next to this little one is signing what she needs and trying to say the word at the same time.

We see that American Sign Language is helping our little ones not only communicate their needs quicker but develop their language skills at the same time.

What other skills are they learning?

I remember learning that a child that learns more than one language may become more acceptive of others. In the Fall of 2007, The Duke University Talent Identification Program offered an online newsletter to parents. Martha G. Abbott, Director of Education for the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) described those who learned a second language were “open and accepting of people who speak other languages and come from other cultures.”

I think in return, these little ones will also be more acceptive of their own distinct differences from others and unique characteristics.

Link to 2007 newsletter mentioned above.

Written by Shawna Tran: