by Katie Lamping
* When and why did you start signing with your child?*
My son Edan is 3 years old and we’ve been signing for about 2 years now. He turned 1 in March of 2011 and he had some developmental delays at the time, including speech. Despite having normal hearing and understanding of language all along, he was almost 18 months old when he said his first word. (Incidentally, that word was “hot”; can you tell we live in Texas??) My husband Kevin, Edan, and I were all so frustrated by Edan’s inability to communicate his increasingly complex observations and requests. I had the option to take an ASL class as an elective for my graduate program in the summer of 2011, so I signed up and started teaching Edan as I learned. I was amazed when he started signing back! It was so much easier for him to SHOW me what he was thinking, and ASL gave him a way to direct how he was already using his hands and body and facial expressions to communicate. His emphatic use of this new language taught me a lot about what a “visual-gestural” language really looks like.
* How has signing made a difference in your family?*
Today Edan has typical language skills. We backed off of signing a bit when he first started speaking, but like all families, we continually run into periods in which his receptive language development outpaces his expressive and articulation abilities. So we keep coming back to ASL. It’s also given us a way to talk to each other privately no matter who else is around, and I think we will appreciate this more and more as he gets older because I will be able to ask questions, provide instructions, or offer affection without embarrassing him. Of course, it’s also a way for us to communicate when we can’t otherwise speak, like when we’re too far apart, when one of us loses our voice, when I’m on the phone, when we’re in a quiet environment like when daddy is still asleep, or a loud one like during a tantrum. ;)
* What would you tell a friend interested in signing with their child?*
For those interested in beginning to sign, I would encourage them to take a class if at all possible, either through a Signing Time instructor or at a local college (in San Antonio, SAC and UTSA offer ASL courses). Bookmark a couple relevant websites and/or pick up an ASL dictionary and get in the habit of looking up the signs for words you use throughout the day. Be consistent, use the signs at every opportunity, and watch for and acknowledge approximations of the sign in your child’s movements. Make it a part of your life as much as possible and know that it’s never too late to start or pick it back up.
*Do you have a favorite Signing Time product?*
I LOVE all the Signing Time DVDs. Many of them show signs for foods and because Edan has multiple food allergies, this provides a great opportunity to talk about foods that are and are not safe for him. He gets so excited when an Edan-safe food comes up; “I can have that mama!”. Vol 6: My Favorite Things is one of his favorites because it includes the signs for so many “Edan-safe” fruits and vegetables...and also because he likes the rainbow on the cover. My personal favorite is Vol 5: ABC Signs because it shows so very many signs and it’s fun trying to keep up with Rachel as she sings.
* * *
Thank you for sharing your family's story, Katie! We have loved getting to know all of you in classes this year!
Katie was given a free Practice Time DVD as a thank you gift for participating in this series, but all opinions are her own. Some affiliate links are included.