Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Teaching Kids Sign Language

I had a strange coincidence happen to me. My little one is getting frustrated because he can't always communicate. He looks at me and motions and makes sounds and sometimes I just can't figure out what he wants. So, we started doing a little sign language. He is now doing "more" and I am trying to teach "thank you" and "bath."

I am in the midst of all this and I get this email:

"I highly recommend a show called "Signing Time with Alex and Leah". I think it would be a good interview too. Leah was born deaf and her Mom, Rachel started this show with her sister so other people could communicate with her daughter. Their second daughter has a learning difference too. This show has helped our son who couldn't hear for two years build his receptive language along with Speech Therapy. It has also taught both of our kids sign language along with communication skills. The show is on PBS sometimes but people can also buy the DVDs. Some school districts use it to help kids with learning differences too. "~Pam

Pam has no affiliation with this company. She says she just wants other parents to know this resource exists.

I called our local PBS station, WTVP, and found out Signing Time will no longer be on the air as of this September! That was disappointing, so I called and interviewed the host and co-creator Rachael Coleman. She said the show will stop airing nationwide!

Rachael says she and her sister Emili created the show because Rachael's 11-year-old daughter, Leah, is deaf. Alex is her cousin. He learned sign language at an early age so he could communicate with Leah. Rachael said, "We saw the benefits of learning sign at about a year and half. My daughter was telling me "I want some goldfish. Thank you very much" when other kids were just pointing and gesturing."

Rachael has another daughter, Lucy, who has spina bifida, cerebral palsy and mental retardation. She was told her daughter would never communicate, but she has learned to sign! "It's a second language, an important skill. Even if your child is in elementary school, it might benefit them. They can see the letters on their hands. It really is like a super learning tool. Kids with learning disabilities, like autism have had great success with sign language. There is a place for sign language in every home," said Rachael.

Rachael and Emili created "Signing Time with Alex and Leah" because they wanted other parents to have the same, great experience with their kids. "They will learn the words. They just won't point and wine before they learn to talk. That leads to fewer tantrums and wining as toddlers," said Rachael. The two women are not rich, but they funded this project themselves! They have made two seasons, 26 episodes. They actually pay to have the program run on PBS. "I love that I am helping these families, but we pay to put the show on the air. We do not get paid. It is an important contribution. We did the second 13 episodes for about a million dollars in loans. As we came upon the third season, I am at an interesting crossroad, " said Rachael. She was assured an investor would see the show and sign on as a sponsor, but that hasn't happened, so the show is ending for now. Rachael did say this may not be the end of the show, but she can't go in to detail just yet.

WTVP in Peoria, Illinois airs "Signing Time with Alex and Leah" at 2p.m. on Sundays. You can purchase the shows on-line at SigningTime.com.

Rachael said, "There is no perfect time for you to start teaching your kids sign. If you didn't start when they were brand new, that's fine. When you're child starts pointing, that is not too late." I am thinking about it. It sounds like it would benefit my family. (if I can get my husband and babysitter to continue signing when I'm not home!)

And here are some pictures you can print out and use sign language to describe.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

Methodist Medical Center's new online healthcare program, MyMethodist eHealth, is a proud sponsor of this blog post. MyMethodist eHealth is the secure link to your doctor's office that lets you request appointments, order prescription refills, update your personal health record, and more. Sign up for MyMethodist eHealth here.


Maria said...

My son made his first sign at around 1 year. We were lucky-- we started using it at home for simple terms, and the daycare also uses sign (ASL), so he was getting it from all sides. Now there are words he signs, words he says and words he does both for. It's great-- not perfect-- but great. :)

Anonymous said...

i think teaching a child that is perfectly able to use his voice and is not hearing impaired to use sign language instead of talking is an easy way out. i understand they get fustrated and you dont understand them but isn't it better to get them to talk?

Maria said...

Children are physically capable of signing before they are physically capable of forming sounds with their mouths. Signing can prevent frustration and improve communication skills in the long run. It's not an easy way out.

Rixblix said...

I taught Deaf and Hard of Children for several years and can attest to the ease with which very young children pick up sign. Deaf and Hard of Hearing infants/toddlers (if exposed to sign) will "babble" with their hands just as hearing kids do with their voices. However, it's important that parents use their voices right along with sign. Voicing the word with the sign is vital. Try some simple verbs (want, eat, drink) and nouns...cracker, water, milk, bottle, cookie rather than phrases and sentences when they are pre-verbal. After all, the goal is helping them communicate their needs rather that teaching them the intricacies of a second language.

Kristen said...

We started teaching our daughter how to sign simple words (eat, drink, more and all done) when she was about 7 months old. She just turned 10 months old and uses the sign for "more" and "all done" on a regular basis. Rather than getting frustrated and whining because she wants more to eat and doesn't know how to express it, she can tell us! We made the decision that we wanted to teach our daughter to sign after seeing a friend's 12 month old son signing words like please, more, all done and drink. It was incredible to see him communicating at such an early age. I'm excited to continue teaching our daughter more signs!

NJTOM said...

My niece started using sign language at about 8 or 9 months. It was always funny to watch her make the signs "Enough" when she didn't want to eat anymore or "More" when she wanted to eat more. Today she is probably one of the most advanced kids verbally I've ever met so I don't think it may have helped her a bit.

newsanchormom.com said...

Rachael said she often has people ask her if kids won't learn how to talk if they learn sign. She said absolutely not. She said "Do babies who wave bye never learn to say the word?"I thought that was a good point.

You guys are really getting me motivated to teach my son more sign!

Knight in Dragonland said...

There's no evidence that learning sign language delays the development of spoken language. In fact, there is some evidence that just the opposite is true, especially for those with autism and learning disabilities. I think the Signing Time video series is awesome. My girls love it.

Anonymous said...

My comment is for those who have been told their child, "Would never be able to ..." fill in the blank. Walk, speak, communicate, learn. And a challenge to do all you can to prove them wrong.

Christine said...

"Signing Time" was great for very young kids. But moms and then older kids could do well finding the DVD "Sign Language for Everyone!" by CJ Sign Language, which also aired on PBS a while ago. One tape has hundreds of signs on it so it's much cheaper to buy!

Darcy said...

I have every DVD of Signing Time. My daughter is almost 4. She has some educational abilities beyond a first grader.I attribute a lot of her success to Signing Time. She would not allow me or my husband not to play these DVD's . My husband was a skeptic at first. Once he saw HER desire to thrive it changed his tune (he thought I was pushing her. she showed him otherwise). I will begin home schooling her in a couple weeks. She has an incredible desire to learn. My 19 month old son is following the same path. It's like giving your child the tools to succeed in life. The self-confidence of both of my children I do not know how to chart! PS We never suffered through "Terrible Twos". They could both tell me what they want!

Anonymous said...

When our fourth son was three he didn’t like to talk outside of his comfort zone. While in public he would only whisper in my ear. Being fourth and knowing that my other children didn’t do this , I was a bit concerned. One of the things we did to help bring him out of it was, we started teaching him sign so he could communicate with us in public and he didn’t have the stress of talking so that other could hear. In my mind it was just to help bring down the frustration level of not being able to communicate with him whenever others were around, while we worked on his shyness.

To our surprise it brought him completely out of his shyness! He was so proud of himself and all the sign he had learned that he was showing everyone. He stared talking to people that he would not before “look what I can sign” and “do you know what this sign means?” within two week he was talking to everyone and we didn’t need to use sign to communicate in front of strangers anymore.

He was very quick to pick up sign so we continued to teach it to him. He was the first of my children to read in Kindergarten and loves learning. We had a fifth child and because our kids knew sign and did so well with it we taught our fifth child as well. Child #5 also read in kindergarten and loves school. Coincidence?Maybe, but I tend to think that it helped my children get ready to learn earlier. I wish I would have know about the benefits of sign for my older kids when they were toddlers.

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