Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sign Language - She's getting it!

What is exciting is how quickly Elyana is understanding and applying sign language now. She babbles constantly... I mean, she just talks and talks and talks. Which I adore. But I can't understand most of it.

I read a lot from different websites, and I bought and read Sign With Your Baby when she was 6 months old. I immediately started to implement working specifically on modeling "More" to her and making her hands form the sign. I knew it would take a while, and that patiences and persistence were key. I knew there was no time limit for it taking "too long" for her to grasp. I would use a few other signs to her, when they came into normal conversation, but I was mainly trying to just work on that one first. My reading had told me that there wasn't much point to starting before 6 months, because babies don't have a ton of memory to recall something like that, at that point. I had also learned that with patient persistence a baby will usually start signing back around 9-10 months. Haha.

Well, my darling girl did it at 13 months!!! Oh but the joy of that hard-earned "more" was deligthful! She understood very quickly that signing "more" to us got her more of whatever her little mouth was craving... Strawberries, puffs, blueberries, bites of Momma/Daddy's food.... Basically, by about 2-3 days into using it, we called it her "magic word", because she would very feverishly and intensely sign "more" if we weren't giving her what she wanted (specifically with cookies or chocolate or anything sweet that she wanted). We figured she thought if she used it enough, she would get more!!! Very funny. And a little heartbreaking because I wanted to give her more and reward her diligent use of her sign language. But alas, teaching "No" is pretty important.

With "more" well at hand, I started intorducing more to see what she would pick up. I showed her "All Done", "Banana", "Strawberry", "Hurt", "Help", "Book" and "Shoes". She would do banana, strawberry, and shoes back to us, but not all the time, and sloppily. (They are more precise than all-done, to be honest.) Then, about two weeks after she got "more", she got "All Done." What a joy to be able to ask her when she's regusing food if she's all done, or if she just wants more of (fill-in-the-blank). As a mother that was so helpful.

But our favorite sign? The one she got only days after all-done? HELP!!! Oh my goodness, this one is a lifesaver for both her whining and my relationship with her. We used a revised version of Help that's easier for a baby, and she really understood that one. She started using it when her ball was trapped. No more whining for it to get my attention, she just stood there patiently and silently, and signed "help." Over and over and over! The she used it when a toy of hers was playing the wrong song. Or when she wanted to get in her toy car, but couldn't. I saw her in the back of the car, in her carseat, quietly signing "help" because she'd dropped her book!

If I could, I would recommend every mother teach their child this sign very early on. We use the word "help" a lot, so it was a concept she understood easily. It melts my heart to see my little baby signing for my help - and to see the relief and delight on her face when I say, "You need Momma's help?", well that's even better. A 14-month old really does have an intense desire to be understood, and they are so happy and fulfilled when this occurs.

She has started just today and yesterday to use 3 other signs. "Eat", "Excuse me" (when she burps), and "Hurt".

Just wanted to share what she's up to... As well as encourage any one out there who wants to try it....


S and H said...

I'd love to try it....Unfortunately, I have no children! :) But this is definitely something I want to do when Stuart and I start a family!

Anne said...

Wow, Elyana's doing awesome! I could never get Kate to catch on to "help" and I really wish she had. She is growing so much in her vocabulary now that I am trying to steer her more towards using words instead. I'm so excited to see your patience and hard working paying off for your little girly!

Herb of Grace said...

Ah yes! How much better to teach them an alternative way to communicate than to simply lose our patience and get aggravated with the whining and crying!

"Please" is always one of our firsts and is one of those universal ones they seem to use for any random thing they want to tell us :) I always felt that "More" would be a little harder for them, since it's a later developmental thing to "use both hands in concert to perform a task".

Carolyn Honea said...

That's great! I admire your persistance in teaching her.

This week I've started to really try to teach Eva Claire sign language. The three that were most helpful with Savannah were "more" "all done" and "eat" so I am working on those first, but I like the idea of teaching her "help" early on too. Signing is SO much better than whining!