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Baby Sign Language and Early Education Blog
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Subscribe to the FREE Spotlight Newsletter and receive 3 FREE gifts including a Getting Started baby sign language chart, an American Sign Language alphabet chart and an MP3 song from our award winning Pick Me Up! Music and Activity Guide Book. The Sign2Me Spotlight Newsletter features educational and insightful articles and stories from our diverse Instructors' Network. Get useful ASL (American Sign Language) sign demonstrations, parent and teacher stories and tips, information about early literacy education, discounts, coupons/vouchers and much, much More

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When Will My Baby Start Signing?
by: Kelly Ward
I love this question, because my three children are examples of the wide ranges of times when your baby begins to sign back to you. We started introducing signs to all of our children when they were 7 months old.  My oldest daughter began signing to us at 9months.  By the time she was 13 months old she had a signing vocabulary of over 50 signs and she was frequently combining 2-3 signs together.
My second daughter started signing around 10months of age and she quickly settled in on a solid dozen of her favorites.  She would demonstrate other signs as we showed her, but would only use her favorite 12-15 on a regular basis.
My youngest didn't start signing until he was about 13 months and now at 18 months has made the connection with words and signs.  Over the course of three months his signing vocabulary has exploded from four to more than 70 signs!
One walked at 13months, one at 10 months and our youngest at 16 months.  This is just one of the many ways my children are different and are developing at their own individual paces.
Each baby is unique and each baby will sign according to his/her own time frame, just as babies all learn to sit up, crawl and walk at different times.  A key to signing success is your own consistency, persistence and enthusiasm while signing within context!   If you are consistently saying what you are signing and referring to actual people/places/things that are important to your baby, s/he will soon begin signing with you.
Babies who experience signing beginning at 6mos. or earlier may take 2-4 months before they are developmentally ready to make the physical signs.  Many will often show receptive understanding of signs much earlier.
Babies who are introduced to signs at a later age, (11 mos +) may often begin signing a short time after being introduced to the signs.  It is not uncommon at this age for babies to produce a sign within the same 24 hour time period when they are shown the sign. This is especially true of the starter signs "more", "milk", and "eat".
Babies will sign what is important to them.  Consider signs that are of great interest or highly motivating to your baby. If your baby has a favorite book or stuffed animal, use these signs consistently when talking with your baby about these items.  S/he will make begin to make the connectionbetween the item, the spoken word and the sign.
Just as all babies meet their developmental milestones at different times, your baby will sign when s/he is ready.  Don't give up! Be persistent, consistent and enthusiastic, your baby will make theconnection and you will soon enjoy the benefits of the efforts you have made.  Keep signing and when your baby signs back toyou, celebrate!
Kelly Ward is a certified Sign2Me® Instructor in Marion, Iowa. She is also the Owner of "Signing' Tots... Sayin' A Lot Before We Can Talk!", a business dedicated to exposing pre-verbal infants and toddlers to American Sign Language.

My son, blowing our M.D. away
September 2009  Signing Star
By: Leslie Briggs

At 22 months of age, my son, Carson broke his arm. I was so grateful I had taught him to sign when I took him to the Doctor to have his arm placed in a cast. On our way into the Doctor's office, Carson began signing "DADDY, DADDY". The doctor, confused by what he was doing, looked to me. "He is asking for his father", I explained. We proceeded into the room, where the doctor lifted Carson onto the table and touched his arm. Carson winced and began signing, "HURT, HURT". Again the doctor looked to me.I explained that he was in pain, the doctor proceeded more gently, amazed at this child's ability to express his needs. Then, as the doctor began applying the cast, Carson let out a squeal and looked at me imploringly. He was emphatically signing "HOT, HOT". I have never seen a cast applied, so I looked to the doctor this time and asked, "Is there any chance the cast is hot? He issigning HOT". "Yes, it is!" he replied. At this point the doctor quickly finished his work and excitedly called all his staff members over. "That little baby," he said, pointing at Carson, "justtold me his cast is hot!"
While most one-year olds have to result to tantrums to try and get their points across, Carson was able to call for his daddy, ask the doctor to be more gently and let everyone know that "the darn cast is too HOT"!

What Medical Professionals Should Know About Signing click here

Learning New ASL Signs is Easy with these 5 Simple Tips!
August 2009 Featured Article
By: Melissa "echo" Greenlee
As busy parents, many times our brains are over loaded with the tasks and responsibilities of our daily grind. Whether it be work, play, child rearing or all three, learning and executing new ASL signs takes just a little effort, but it really is much easier than you might think. There are many things you can do to help enhance your ability to remember a sign learned in a book, DVD or class. When learning new ASL signs, turn to these 5 simple tips to help you quickly learn and remember them:

1. - A short note or picture can help you to remember how to execute an ASL sign? Keep a small, coil-bound notepad handy to write down memory reinforcers. Sentences don't have to be complete, little notes will do. Write the English word as the heading, followed by your notes.  Better yet, if you don't have a handout or other printed sign vocabulary, draw little pictures of the sign to help jog your memory.

2. - Is the sign "iconic?" In other words, does it look like what it represents? Many ASL signs are iconic and that makes them very easy to remember! An example of this would be the sign for "Milk." It looks just like you're milking a cow!  Couldn't be any simpler!

3. - Is there another sign you already know that looks similar to the sign you want to learn? Sometimes, associating one sign with another can help you recall signs more quickly. When you forget a sign, another word comes to mind to help you remember what you learned. An example of this would be the similar signs for "Candy" and "Apple." They are both done at the cheek and with the pointer finger. The only difference is that "Apple" uses a bent index finger and "Candy" uses a straight index finger. If you simply remember that the sign for "Apple" is very similar to the sign for "Candy" and vice versa, your chances of recalling both signs increases dramatically.

4. - Is the sign you want to learn an "initialized" sign? This means, does the sign begin with the first letter of the associated English word? An example of this would be the ASL sign for "Yellow," where the sign is made using the "Y" hand shape. A short mental note of this will help you to recall the sign much more quickly.

5. - Does the ASL sign demonstrate the movement that the real object makes? For example, the sign for "Monkey" is done very similarly to how a monkey moves his arms. Once again, a short mental note of this will help you to recall the sign more quickly.

The best advice I can give you to help increase your ability to quickly learn and remember a sign is something my father taught me long ago, "practice makes perfect!" Sign the vocabulary over and over and over again in as many appropriate contexts as possible. The more you use the sign in your daily life, the easier it will be to recall and the more proficient you'll become.

Happy Signing!

Article Submitted by: Certified Sign2Me Instructor, Melissa "echo" Greenlee, Washington
Visit Echo's Instructors' Network web site here...

The Benefits of Music & Sign in Language Development
July  2009 Featured Article
By:Lora Heller
As a music therapist, I knew that my graduate degree in Deaf education would haveto be put to work that included music. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a therapeutic preschool where I had a class of deafchildren whose parents were hearing, together with hearing children whoseparents were Deaf.  Many of the deaf children with hearing parents whodidn't sign, did not have access to language until they began school-their hearing counter parts with deaf, signing parents, were much furtheralong.  So learning Sign in the classroom opened many doors for these 3 -4 year olds.  Finally they knew what to call a table, a book, an apple, afriend... and signing while singing songs helped to solidify their newlanguage.  Seeing the sign for "stop" while watching hearing class mates stop marching, and noticing the vibrations of the drum diminishing, helped themto understand the meaning of stop---both for their movement and forsound.  
In the same school, I had a class of children whose primary/home language was Spanish, and a class of children that had significant behavior issues. While ASL was essential for the children in the "deaf" class, it was equally beneficial in these other classes.  The children whose home language wasSpanish were learning English in school; most of their parents and older familymembers spoke only Spanish.  Using the same signs with the different wordshad a profound effect on their learning process.  Adding songs and musicalplay again solidified their new vocabulary.  Singing a song in English about the snack they were eating was more effective when it included sign---the children were able to easily remember the gestures they had previously learned through song for the Spanish words, and then draw a conclusion about the meaning of the English word.  Since the sign for Milk and the sign for Leche are the same, the children were able to make connections.

Theclass of children with significant behavior issues benefitted in different ways from the sign.  While many of these students had solid language, they lacked the ability to express themselves in times of distress.  That's where the signs played the largest role.  Through songs about feelings,new situations, asking for help, and other such things, the children were taught signs for key vocabulary.  That way when they were acting out, given asimple visual reminder, many of the children were able to calm down and express themselves with a sign.

Aside from my own experience, research does support the benefits of music and sign...An article by Patricia Ivankovic and Ingrid Gilpatric in a 1994 issue of Perspectives in Education and Deafness includes a table of songs that teachparts of speech.  For example, Where is Thumbkin teaches verbs, nouns, pronouns, and sequencing; coupled with ASL, deaf students can fully participate in the learning process.  An article by Heather A. Schunk in a1999 issue of the Journal of Music Therapy focuses on the receptive language benefits of singing & signing for ESL students.  Steve Kokette, the producer of award winning signed song videos featuring Deaf performers, wrotein 1995 on the benefits of sign paired with music--for the level of signlearned when presented through songs, and the memory of rhythms when presentedwith sign.  Also in 1995, Buday wrote an article for the Journal of MusicTherapy highlighting the benefits of signed songs on sign and speech imitationby children with autism.   
The work of Joseph Garcia of Sign with Your Baby, throughout the '80s and '90s, chronicles the delight of parents around the world who have found signingto decrease behavior issues and communication related frustration, while jump starting language development.  In my classes at Baby Fingers, musicis a key component in teaching the signs.  Babies focus for longer periods of time during songs, allowing more eye contact with the teacher orparents.  During these moments of eye contact, a great deal of learning can take place.  The songs also act as a memory aid for the grown-ups, sothey can go home and practice with their child.  Bilingual families in our program have found that translating songs from class into their home language,coupled with the signs also learned in class, appears to "bridge the gap" between English and the family's primary language.  This process ofsigning and singing together provides overall growth in communication and strengthens the bond between parent and child.
Article Submitted by: Lora Heller, MS,MT-BC, LCAT, Certified Sign2Me Instructor, New York, NY
Visit Lora's Instructors' Network web site here...


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