This morning Olive joined us in bed because she woke up pretty early (after sleeping for 10.5 hours for the first time EVER!) but was making her “I’m trying to fall asleep” sounds in her bed. I assumed after such a long stretch of sleeping she was probably hungry (and I needed to be relieved big time anyways!) and wanted to go potty. She lay between us in bed eating, rolling around, kicking us, eating, rolling, and so on. At one point she was laying close to Tyler and she looked at me and did something very interesting with her hand. She either waved or she signed milk. I quickly realized that waving and milk are frustratingly similar. So I tried to feed her, but she didn’t seem hungry. But why would she wave to me from a foot away when neither of us were coming or going? Only she knows, I suppose.
Before having Olive I worked as a Mental Health Practitioner at Fraser. I used simple signs with a lot of kids who were non-verbal, had limited language, or delayed language. Actually, I probably used it with most kids, even kids who had little to no motor control simply because the signs became “second nature”, along with “Fraser speak” (five more minutes, too close, my turn, all done, not okay, etc). I assumed these signs would continue to join me throughout life as I have also expected “Fraser speak” to do. After all, for the couple of years we’ve had our pup I’ve told her “not okay”, “too close”, and “all done” countless times.
As Olive continues to develop and gain more and more gross motor control each day, I have placed an increased emphasis on using signs in front of her and occasionally helping her to use them with hand over hand assistance. Generally the hand over hand assistance is resisted or is too difficult to do safely (while holding her, sitting on the potty, etc) but I try when I can. Since I have been using and thinking about signs more often lately I thought I would share a little list of our current sign repertoire. You can also visit www.earlychildhoodeducationdegree.net for available courses and training programs you can use in teaching little kids.
Below is a list of signs that I commonly use with Olive. I’m not completely consistent but I do my best. Tyler doesn’t know all of them so there is a huge lack of consistency there (maybe this list will be of use to him!) but I’m not looking to make Olive fluent in signing in the next month.. so it’s probably okay! In no particular order, here are most of the signs I use:
potty – will occasionally sign this on the way to the potty, sign before and/or after taking off her diaper before sitting on the potty, & sometimes while sitting on it
water – we use a small shot glass for her drinking cup. this way we can use this sign more frequently (when we fill it & when we give it to her)
milk – she gets very excited when we say & sign milk!
all done – used consistently after using the potty & when finished with meals. this will be very useful for her when she can do it herself.
more – used often during meals. i show her the more sign & sign more hand over hand when i refill her food & drink. also used for fun things like songs & books.
help – used when she drops something & needs help to get it
please – usually use this in conjunction with help
stop – haha.. I use this often when she picks at this thing on the back of the refrigerator that she knows she’s not supposed to pick at. eventually we’ll play games involving stopping & going to make sure she understands the word across multiple situations rather than only the refrigerator!
Meal time is a wonderful time to work on signs because it’s incredibly motivating for most kids. Give small amounts of food and drink and show how to request more. Eventually begin to prompt for the sign and provide decreased physical assistance until they pick it up.
You can watch little videos of signs at Baby Sign Language. We don’t do all of them exactly the same but it really doesn’t matter how you do them…
If Olive picks up on ten signs I’ll be very happy but if she picks up on only one I’ll still be very happy. My hope is that I can increase her communication skills by using some signs and increase her independence as well. It has to be tough having wants and needs but no words. Hopefully a few signs like potty, eat, and help will make life easier for her. And why not throw in a please and thank you? :)
Do you use signs with your baby? What do you think about using signs with babies?