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Signing With Babies And Children: APPROXIMATION

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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


Jay3fer said...

This is just like when hearing / speaking children say BA and their parents eagerly crowd around them asking if they said "bottle", handing them their "bear," etc.

It is amazingly effective; the baby learns that the sound (or sign!) brings results, and sooner rather than later, makes the sound/sign so consistently that they get what they want... almost all the time.

The next hard lesson, of course, is realizing that just being able to say/sign MILK doesn't mean they're going to GET milk right that instant... but that lesson takes about twenty years to fully sink in... :-))))

Lisa said...

This is so true - don't expect them to be able to sign perfectly the first time...the more praise you give them the better. We found that when Scarlette could do one sign (it was 'Milk') for a little while after that she would sign 'milk' every time she wanted anything to eat or drink. This wasn't a bad thing at all - at least we knew she was after something. We just asked her if she would like a milk or something to eat and she would nod yes or no to work it out from there. There are so many ways to communicate, when you put them all together it makes it a wonderful experience all around.

Kelly - Sign2Connect said...

More times than not, a parent misses certain clues of sign approximation. I believe that is why attending a class for Parent and their infant(s) or toddler(s) is so important to the sign approximation learning curve!