Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Learning Sign Language

Finn communicates with us in many ways.  Most often it is gestures or dragging me and pointing to what he wants.  Finn also signs - he probably knows about 100 signs, he uses some words, and we are also learning PECS (the picture exchange communication system).  People often ask me how I learn the sign language I teach Finn.  I have learned sign language 4 ways:

1) Therapists
2) The Deaf/Hard of Hearing Teacher from the school system
3) Baby Signing Time
4) Looking up words on the American Sign Language Website

I often see free sign language class information on therapists bulletin boards, but I have not personally attended any of them.  If you are looking for a class, I would recommend asking you therapist.  If I hear of an upcoming class, I will make sure to post it in the events page.

I am probably the most anti-TV person I know.  We have on TV only and it is upstairs in our "media room."  The kids are pretty much only allowed to watch Sesame Street, Thomas the Train, and Baby Signing Time videos.  I can't say enough good things about the baby signing time videos.  We got these fairly early on and even when Finn wasn't interested in them, I learned a lot of the basics.  They have catchy songs and are really easy to follow.  Finn and Camila both loves these 20 minute videos.  I love watching the kids sign along to the videos.   The website for the Signing Time Videos is http://www.signingtime.com

Keep in mind that if your child has any type of hearing loss he or she may be eligible to have a deaf/hard of hearing teacher come to your house from the school system.  This is separate from Early Steps, but talk to your Early Steps coordinator about it or don't hesitate to call the school system.  If your child is over three, he or she should get this service at the school he or she attends.  Make sure deaf/hard of hearing is on his or her IEP so he or she qualifies for these services. 

We had a really good deaf/hard of hearing teacher come to our house.  The biggest thing that sets this individual apart from the speech therapist is that they are educators.  She did not teach Finn "baby" signs, she taught him the correct sign which I think is so important so we don't have to reteach him the correct sign.  Even though he doesn't have the fine motor skills to do the sign perfectly, we understand what he is trying to say and eventually he will be able to do it correctly.  Just think of your child saying "Melmo" instead of "Elmo" or "Pagetti" instead of "spaghetti."  Same concept.

I try and use the signs I know with the kids throughout the day and if I don't know something that I think they would like to be able to communicate I look it up on the American Sign Language dictionary.  I love this website because it shows someone actually doing the signs instead of you having to guess the movement from a picture.  http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/aslpro/aslpro.cgi.  There are also a ton of applications for your phone that make accessing this info so easy.

Lastly, making a book is very helpful.  Take pictures of familiar items in your house and look up the sign on American Sign Language website.  Put the picture of the sign on one side of the page and the picture of the object on the other side.  Finn loves looking through this book and identifying objects that are familiar to him.  You can always add more pages and it is cheaper than buying a book on signing!

Here are some examples of pages from Finn's book:

Kids love signing because it involves movement.  Its fun for them and its a great way to get your child to communicate.  It is also a bridge to verbal communication. 

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