Sign Language!

Baby Signing. Everyone seems to be talking about how neat it is, so about a month ago, I decided to try it!

At first, I thought I would use a few key signs with Brynna, such as hungry, more, and maybe 15 or so other words along those lines. I figured we would use these signs while she was pre-verbal, and abandon them after that. But once we started actually signing, I realized it was going to be so much more than that.

I started signing with Brynna, and at first it did feel a little awkward and pointless. Was she even paying attention? But then Brynna began signing back (vaguely, but it was clear she was trying) after only a few weeks. Right now, she tries to sign daddy, duck, eat, and dog. When she signs a word, a lot of the time she also tries to verbalize it! I think she is also doing her own version of more now too. :)

I've been watching a lot of amazing videos on YouTube of babies, toddlers, and older kids who are signing fluently. It's just amazing to see. And it's very interesting to learn that instead of "giving babies a crutch so they don't have to talk," which is what most people seem to assume, it actually does just the opposite!

There is this one little girl on YouTube who should definitely check out. You will be blown away. Her mother started signing with her as a baby, and she was signing, talking, and READING with amazing skill by age 2 and a half! Here is her mom's YouTube channel. It also has some fun sing-and-sign-along videos, which both of my girls really like watching. :)

Another aspect of sign language is signing with kids who have emotional and/or verbal difficulties. Now of course I was including Kaylee in learning to sign, because that would be unfair and create jealousy if it was something I did only with Brynna. But then something clicked in my brain. It could be so beneficial to Kaylee to be able to express herself through sign!

You're probably confused now because Kaylee seems like a typical kid with great verbal skills. Well, a lot of the time, she is. She loves homeschooling with me, playing with her little sister, helping out with the chores, etc. People often tell me she is very polite, intelligent, caring, mature, and other positive things.

But sometimes, she has a lot of trouble processing things, and it makes her extremely grouchy and/or hyper. As of yet, she is un-diagnosed, but I suspect she may have Asperger's Syndrome, like me (yet not like me, since everyone presents differently). Sometimes, something that may seem insignificant to others can make her so upset, she becomes uncommunicative, violent, and/or self-harming. She also has night terrors where she is literally unable to talk. And in social situations, she often gets overwhelmed, which she deals with by becoming very loud and overly energetic.

Whatever she does have, I want to find coping techniques that make her feel like I'm trying to HELP her, not FIX her. And I'm finding that signing is a very useful tool for her. During her meltdowns and night terrors, it is much easier for her to make a sign than to get a word out. She can tell me what she needs, like water, hug, or for me to, go away. She can describe if she's feeling angry or sad, and being able to express how she feels can go a long way in helping her start to calm down.

We're in the beginning stages right now, but I feel very positive about this! If you have a child who has trouble expressing themselves for whatever reason, maybe signing could be helpful to them too. :)

Something to think about: If we are going to use ASL for our own purposes, we should take the time to learn a little bit about its background, and the culture that goes with it. After a bit of reading, I began to see that American Sign Language (ASL) really belongs to the Deaf Community. I think that if people who can hear want to use this beautiful language, they should be respectful to the community they are borrowing it from.

For instance, I bet you think of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as "hearing impaired," but did you know that most do not prefer that term? And did you know that most Deaf people do not consider themselves disabled and do not wish to be Hearing? I know, it was surprising to me too, at first. But then, it suddenly made perfect sense.

Since I have Asperger's, and I am used to people thinking that I have a mental problem, which I surely wish to cure. However, I am who I am, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I consider my "symptoms" to be more personality traits. It can be very hurtful when people don't bother to try and understand or at least accept me. When reading about Deaf Culture, I could relate to a lot of it!

Yes, there are some Deaf or Hard of Hearing people who wish to hear and consider themselves to be disabled, just as there are some people who have Asperger's and other Autism Spectrum disorders who suffer from their symptoms daily and wish to be rid of them. But a lot of people on the spectrum do NOT want or need a cure; what they want is to be understood, and what they need is to be accepted! I imagine a lot of Hard of Hearing and/or Deaf people feel very similarly.

I'm sure you can't imagine being Deaf, and would never want to be. I'm sure if you heard that you were going to lose your hearing, it would be a nightmare. But that is because you were born Hearing and that is who you are. On that train of thought, it would make sense that most Deaf people feel the same way about becoming Hearing! Interesting concept, huh? I know that is definitely the way I feel about being "cured" of being an Aspie!!

Anyway, if you are interested in learning some signs, I highly recommend this site: (http://lifeprint.com). It has a great page for baby signing, and in depth lesson plans if you want to learn more. I love the way this site is set up because it has memory aids and answers the questions of a lot of people who have written in. I am finding that I love signing so much, I want to try my best to learn ASL fluently! :)

Note: I know some people prefer to see the word "deaf" capitalized, either in reference to culturally Deaf people or just in general, so I decided to just capitalize it every time in an attempt to be more respectful. Hope I did the right thing! If not, thanks for forgiving my well-intentioned ignorance. :)

9 comments :

Launna said...

Hi Cami, this was interesting and I can understand why some people are happy the way they are and they don't need fixing... just understanding.

I hope this signing helps both your children... as parents I know we are continually looking for ways to help our children process :)

Fashion Lover said...

Great post!! Very interesting and emotional!!

xoxo!

Veronica Lee said...

Thank you for sharing this very helpful post, Cami!
I had the impression that 'hearing impaired' was a more politically correct term to address the deaf. Apparently,I was wrong!

But what God takes away, He endows. Deaf people 'see' more that hearing people. Their eyes function better than a hearing person's ears. They make better drivers because they are more focused and are not distracted by sounds.

Harley Cocks said...

How interesting! Sounds like it's going to be one of the best things for Kaylee. I bet she's loving learning something new too.. she seems to love learning! Can't wait to keep reading your progress x

mail4rosey said...

That's nice that you're learning to sign together.

It will be especially nice if it leads to less frustration with communication. Hurrah for finding a potentially great way around a challenge! I've always thought it would be useful to learn, but never put in the dedication. I may still at some point. :)

Kristina said...

I took a sign language class with my husband before but didn't continue. I am hard of hearing but I would love to be able to hear well without my hearing aids! I've learned the same as you about people not wanting to gain their hearing. And if they are a part of a deaf community that is understandable. I don't have a culture based around my hearing loss, though--I am within the hearing world with less than perfect hearing. As I child I didn't think of myself as being handicapped, but now, I see that it is an issue in some situations. At the same time, I did have a nutritionist mention to me that perhaps we could get my hearing better and I balked at that. I didn't want to go there...didn't want to get my hopes up I think.

Theresa said...

I think baby signing is an awesome way to communicate with young. My best friends sister studied ASL in college and know works as an interpreter. She loves her job so much, she has gotten me interested in wanting to learn ASL too!

Harley Cocks said...

I just loved this post so much I put it on my latest shout out post!!
Such a good read!
http://babytiley.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/shout-out.html

Heather said...

This is awesome. We did basic sign language with both of my boys and Baby B still signs because he just can't express himself yet like his brother. With J, we taught him things like, milk, water, please, thank you, mama, dadda, more and all done. I wasn't as amendment about it with B, but he uses more and all done the most. He's kind of behind verbally, so we are pushing the speaking more these past few months.

But like you said its hard when you first start because you feel like you are just signing to yourself, but its so exciting when they sign back. Then you feel like yay I haven't been doing this for nothing all these months! Great job!