Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Signing Time with Violette

Just realized I had a bit more to say about Violette's signing. I wrote a little bit about it in a previous post.

One thing that I've noticed really has helped her with her attention is when I say "look at this" I first get her attention and get her looking at me and my face, then make an L at my eye level where she can see it and say "look" having her follow my L to what I want her to look at. Then I'll ask her which she wants. For whatever reason if I say "look at the dog, Violette" she would look at me, and not turn her head to look the direction I wanted her to. With this little technique, it seems to have helped her learn what "look" means.

I also will sometimes notice if she is holding onto something, she won't sign - I'm not sure if she thinks her hand is too busy holding up what she's got it on to sign, but usually I'll move it and let it be free when I want her to sign.

Violette loves popsicles. That was a great motivator. The sign is pretty easy (we use the sign for ice cream), and I could work on "more" and "popsicles" and "please." I'd say if you are working with your child on the signs, try to find a sign that is an easy "win." "Cookie" was another one that worked well to get her motivated.

I did some hand over hand at first, where I would first model the sign, then pick up her hands to get her to do it. I alway make it a game - like it is the most fun thing in the whole world, and I praise her when she gets it right. I also think you need to be pretty loose at first in praising the early attempts at signs, even if they aren't perfect. Communication is the name of the game.

We also will sit in a circle and play games with her sisters and we all sign. It can be with a ball, or with music, or with a toy animal. We always play fun games with the signs for "wait" "go" and "stop." That's fun in almost every situation - particularly on the swing set.

Or I'll quiz her sisters on all the signs they know - and her father too. It was really funny one night. We were playing show me the sign, where I rapid fire ask everyone to show different signs they knew. Violette was right in the game, watching and playing along. Then we played "let's quiz Daddy." He's getting better, but doesn't have nearly the vocabulary that the older two girls and I have. So I was rolling through signs. I got to the sign for "Game." He was totally perplexed, and I happened to look over at Miss Violette and sure enough, she was signing GAME perfectly. Cracked all of us up, because none of us knew she knew the sign but she sure knew she did!

The really cool thing that is happening lately is that she is saying the words as she is signing them. Everything I read told me she would talk when she could talk, and so far, it sure has been the case!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How We've Encouraged Violette to Use Sign Language

I've had a few people ask me what we do to encourage Violette to sign so well, so I thought I'd post here what has worked for us.

The short version of why she signs so well is that she is exposed to a lot of sign, all the time. Her sisters (who are 4 and 9) and I took up signing as a hobby, and got a lot of exposure to sign right after she was born. We invested in a season of Signing Time the Christmas after she was born, and I basically forced the kids to watch it, lol, and started quizzing them on the signs in the videos. Violette loves ST - it really holds her attention.

Then I taught the girls to always sign the signs they knew when they were talking to her. We started slow - more, all done, potty and eat and drink. We've always tried to stay right ahead of her interests, so if we were going to a farm, we'd learn the farm words. Holiday? We'd learn the holiday signs. It has really been a hands on game with me and all 3 of the girls. I'm convinced at some point in their later lives it will come in handy - many schools teach sign as a 2nd language so you don't have to take German or French or Chinese or Spanish. My oldest is taking Spanish at school, so she enjoys the idea that she is learning 3 languages.

We incorporate sign very fluidly in our day to day activity with her. When we are playing, we will sign "more" "wait" or "stop." We sign food words. We sign the ASL signs for the itsy bitsy spider, etc. Our sitter also has watched a lot of hours of ST and willingly has learned and used sign with her as well.

Two things have motivated me. One is that I have no idea how far Vi's spoken language will progress - so basically I've assumed that there is a possibility that sign could be her major communication device and decided to be as serious about signing with her as I would have been if she had been born deaf or hard of hearing. Most kids with Down syndrome do learn to speak - they are just delayed compared to typical kids. If she isn't going to talk for a few years, why not have a way to communicate with us so she keeps trying to communicate.

The other is that I have wanted to learn to sign since I was about 11 years old. I had been on a big Helen Keller kick as a child - she was always so inspirational to me. Now that I have a practical opportunity to learn it, and a good excuse, I've really put my head down to learn sign.

We love Signing Time, and we have really enjoyed this site: The older girls ask me all the time "Mommy, what is the sign for X?" and I use signing savvy. They also have a great list of baby signs.

I'm amazed at how well she knows those signs. I'd say she knows at least 75 signs now, and she adds more all the time. I love calling out signs at random that she knows and asking her to sign the words like she did on the video on the blog. Most of the time she can sign them as fast as I can say them. It is really fun now when I show her a new book how she will sign things she sees on the page - I know she is associating the sign with the object.

For us, it really hasn't been a big deal that she isn't speaking more (though she is starting to attempt to say more things, which makes me happy) because she is so communicative through sign. It has been really cool to watch how quickly she picked some of them up from Signing Time.

There are so many advantages to signing as a parent, even with our typical kids. If we are ever in a situation where our little angels are misbehaving, without saying a word to call them out, we can communicate with them.