Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Baby Signs, Sort Of

Jay and I recently decided to start using some signs with Joshua since he's getting to the point where he's a little frustrated by his inability to communicate. And, honestly, we were getting a little weary of him following us around making the baby bird face and saying. "Ahhhh" when he wanted a bite of what we were eating. So far we've taught him three signs: more, water, and finished.

The sign we taught him for "more" is actually ASL for "again," and after modifying it a bit, he makes the sign for "more" by pointing to his palm. We taught him the true ASL sign for "water," but that's a little tough for a toddler, so he points to his mouth rather than making the "w" sign by his mouth. Finally, we taught him "finished." His own version consists of waving his hands wildly in front of his face.

We've been at this for two weeks and are slowly learning that his definitions of the words are slightly different from ours. Here's what he means when he makes these signs:

More [mohr]:
1. Put food in my mouth now (Often done while running into the kitchen after naptime and looking for his snacks)
2. Give me some of whatever you're eating now (Done when you have something to eat and he doesn't. This has recently resulted in his first experiences of pad thai and spicy breakfast sausage, both of which he surprisingly enjoyed).
3. Let me drink from your glass. (Joshua has a large selection of lovely sippy cups, but once he hears his dad pouring a glass of water, dad must share).

Water ['wot-er]:
1. More.
2. Water.
Yes, these are interchangeable, and understandably so. If "water" is signed by pointing to the mouth, and "more" means I want you to put something in my mouth now, then shouldn't I be pointing to my mouth if I want more?

Finished ['fin-isht]:
1. Put me down, I want to play. When eating, often followed by the word "more"
2. Put me down, I want to play. When being picked up after a nap, means "I like you and all and snuggling's not so bad, but I'd really like to stick my fingers in the fan."


TLS said...

Seems like Joshua is doing better at signing than I am. I took a signing class at church several years ago and for the life of me cannot manage to sign at all...even despite having a very close friend (with whom I interact often) who is deaf. I suck.

I can only really sign two words. Dog and vagina. Don't ask.

martha said...

Dude, check out my psychic-ness!

Kirk said...

As Tiffany's aforementioned deaf friend, I'd like to acquit her of any accused wrongdoing in relation to the two signs she has mastered! And to be fair, I don't force you to use ASL with me much so don't feel so bad on yourself!

Grats on teaching Joshua some signs! There's tons of evidence (and books now) about how this helps even hearing kids develop expressive language skills earlier in life. One mother I know who has 5 kids (the third one is deaf, the others hearing) says the best thing she ever did was learn sign for her deaf son. She then used it with her next two hearing kids of course as her deaf son was around and it elminated the guessing game of "wet diaper" or "food" or "hot" when her kids were fussy!

Don't fret about the 'inaccuracies' so much either. A lot of deaf infants with deaf parents have the same sort of articulation problems. It's like when hearing kids learn speech and go from babble to syllables (mama papa) to full words (mother father) etc.

The index finger handshape instead of more articulated handshapes like W for water or even and open palm for Mom or Dad is common.

One of my deaf co-workers recently had a baby girl (hearing) who is of course learning sign from mama and papa and working her way through the same sort of articulation things.

Darby said...

We did signs with Katie and Michael. Katie seemed to pick them up better than Michael, but he is getting there. Katie's favorite sign was "help" :)

Ruth said...

This is absolutely fantastic! I must start doing it with my little one. Thanks for the idea!

Jennifer said...


Mary Beth said...

TLS--I can't imagine what would need to be said that you can't say using "dog" and "vagina." The only reason I know "vagina" is because you showed me at your bachelorette party.

Kirk--Thanks for the encouragement. It's good to know that it's possible to "babble" in sign language, too, and that we're not setting him up to be a sign language dropout.

Anyone else who wants to sign with kids--
is my new favorite site if you don't have a real live person that can teach you.

Laura said...

Ty also used the one finger more when he was first starting out. He did finally have the dexterity to do it correctly, but even now he still uses it sometimes.

The best thing I ever did was teach Ty signs. For the longest time his “more” sign meant

1. More
2. I want that
3. I want that now
4. Again, please
5. I want your attention about something

Thank goodness he finally learned a few more signs. For a while I was wondering what good sign language was if he only had one sign. What’s the difference between pointing and grunting and signing more and grunting if I still had to guess as to which meaning of “more” Ty was talking about. It did get better.

The ones we use most often now that he is close to two are hungry, thirsty, please, and thank you. I never could get him to figure out the sign for help, so I am stuck with screaming and whining until he gets a little more vocal.

Sarah said...

My godson did a little bit of signing when he was small. He invented his own sign for water, which was holding his hand out and wobbling it. It covered a multitude of water-related items. He is a very clever little boy!

The Thief said...

Our favorite with Jonathan was "please" - which he enthusiastically signed by rubbing whatever was all over his hands wildly on his tummy.

messiest. sign. ever.