Monday, December 29, 2008

Signing in sentences

Maybe it's the post-holiday letdown (don't remind me New Year's is still to come -- I'm planning to stay low-key and ignore it), but I'm feeling too lethargic to accomplish a major post today, as I had in mind to do while Mikko is napping. (Yes, napping at 10 at night. Remind me to tell you about his sleep schedule sometime. Or, better yet, don't.)

signing babyInstead, I will just share with you his newest accomplishment in the world of communication: signing in two-word sentences.

I am thrilled. He signed MORE EAT and MORE NUMMIES the other day, at 18 months old. MORE is his code for "I want" -- it doesn't always (or usually) correspond to what we English speakers would mean by "more." In the first instance, he wanted a snack he saw available, and in the second, he wanted the usual. We made up our own sign for breastfeeding, preferring it over the official one and also preferring to leave MILK to mean cow's milk, if needed in the future.

(FYI: Here's a previous post about Mikko and signing, the evolution of NUMMIES, and various Baby Sign resources.)

Mikko has been signing back to us since about 12 months, but this was the first time he'd strung a couple signs together. It sounds like he's right on target in baby-signing development (though no YouTube superstar -- not that I'm concerned!).

Here's a non-signing children's language development chart, though I wouldn't worry too much if your particular kid is behind or ahead of the average. At 18 months, according to the chart, Mikko should have a vocabulary of 5-20 words. He doesn't have near that many -- unless you count signs. In that case, he has about 30.

And he uses them so excitedly. Everywhere we go, he spots the FANs and points out LIGHTs. He signs BEAR and growls for any stuffed animal, and he woofs and signs CAT when he sees a dog or cat. What can I say? He's a little confused about the differences there. He also moos and signs COW for anything vaguely livestock-esque, which funny enough, includes real bears.

I'm just so glad to have a window into his busy mind, and glad that he feels happy telling me what he sees. He will keep signing something over and over until I echo it back vocally, so he craves that interaction, that acknowledgment -- the essence of communication.

You can start signing with your children whether they're 6 months old or 6 years old. Again, I'll refer you to this post, at the end of which I posted several resources for signing with hearing children.

I've gone ahead and added another great resource: I've had a chance to explore Dr. Bill Vicars' site and realized that he has an entire online ASL university that you can complete for free! It's really an incredible gift that he's offering, and the material is exactly what you'd cover in a college ASL course. I've started the lessons for my own education. I really hope to learn more about American Sign Language grammar rather than just stringing a few nouns and verbs into my conversation -- although, if it's with a hearing child, that's good, too! But it's really fascinating to learn more about Deaf culture and to become more conversant in the language as a whole, for whenever I next have the opportunity to communicate with a deaf person. (I think I've embarrassed myself in the past...) And maybe Mikko will want to learn ASL as another language some day!

But really -- I just think signing is fun!

Well, this post ended up being more research than I'd thought it would be. The good news is Mikko slept through it all! You can't see me, but I'm waving goodbye for now. See you later!

Photo of adorable, intensely signing baby courtesy of Ben Earwicker of Garrison Photography on stock.xchng


Wilderness Mama said...

Cool! Jack is signing some too, but he had many delays, so he is a little behind with the signs too, compared to my others. But it does help him communicate! IME, our kids tend to speak audibly less/later than average, but they have always communicated VERY well with ASL. I love it!

They still know a lot and are interested in learning more, possibly in part because my MIL is a translator at church, but mostly they don't even use it now except with Jack.

Thanks for the links. I'll check them out!

Susana la Banana said...

Signing is GREAT. I can't even imagine what it would have been like to have James NOT be able to tell us what was going on in there--I imagine chronic frustration?

And then it was like one day he woke up speaking in full sentences as well. It's crazy how fast they move from stage to stage...and FUN! =)

Lauren Wayne said...

Cindy: It sounds like your kids have done great with signing. I bet it's still in their heads (hands?) and would come out if they wanted to learn again. Fun that they're signing with Jack! As far as timetables, I always wonder if early speakers stop signing earlier -- that's what happened with my niece, who was speaking in complete sentences so early on that my brother and his wife stopped bothering to sign with her. So maybe it's hard to tell whether signers speak later or whether early speakers wouldn't bother to sign! Here's an interesting Q&A that talks a little along the same lines of language development and timetables along with signing:

Funny note: My son's pediatrician told us to have him practice speaking. She held his attention and spoke to him with really exaggerated mouth movements and told us he needed to exercise his mouth. I just stared at her, and think I might have offended her with my disbelief... :) If a baby is hearing & doesn't have other developmental barriers and is around hearing people, he'll learn how to talk! Exercise his mouth??

Susana: Absolutely! It's so much fun to know what he's thinking. And I can't wait till the speaking. When Mikko says one of his rare words ("woof" being the favorite right now), I realize -- that's his voice. Someday I'll hear his voice all the time. It's so funny to think he'll be talking just like us before long!

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