Friday, July 29, 2011

Signing Time

WHERE WE'RE AT: The vid above shows some of the signs Jackson knows right now. I wanted to preserve this before they fall out of use completely as his speech improves. Most of these signs now come with accompanying words, with the exceptions of fish and chicken. I believe he knows a few others (baby, bike, train and slide came up today), but these are the ones I remembered to quiz him on this morning.

WHY WE'RE THERE: I'm learning sign language as fast as I can, but half the time I only think to learn the sign for something after Jackson has started verbalizing a word approximation. Sigh. Still, I'm really loving baby sign language, and as I posted earlier this month, one of my few baby-related regrets is that I haven't been studying ASL all along.

I like that it's a multisensory approach to communication--I think the information may be getting into brain through multiple channels, which has to be good right? My instinct is that using signs as well as words gives me a second set of tools to use in defining the little guy's world. For example, whenever the kid hears a diesel engine or air brakes or that backup beeping noise, he shouts "Truck!" (Or at least something that sounds like tuck/duck/turducken/etc.) I tried for a while explaning, that's a bus-truck, that's a van-truck, that's a construction-truck, but I just kept hearing "Turducken!"

So I've been signing truck when it's actually a truck, and saying, "Yes, that's a FedEx truck. That truck is the color white." But when it's a bus, I sign a old-fashioned version of bus (because I don't love the newfangled fingerspelled sign) and then I say, "Yes, that truck is a bus (sign bus). That bus is the color orange." And I think the information gets in there, better than it does when I just say, "No, that's a bus." I don't want to deny that it's a truck, because it kind of is, I just want to provide more information about the subtype of truck that he's dealing with. On a related note, I sign chicken when we encounter either roosters, hens or baby chicks in our reading, in hopes of conveying that even though the specific words and pictures may look and sound different, they all refer to variations on the same concept. (There is a separate sign for rooster but we'll get there when we get there.)

Another advantage of sign language is quite simply that it's not spoken. Sixteen-month-old toddlers don't talk so good under the best of circumstances, and it's great to have a alternate means of communication. Today, for example, at the loud restaurant at the zoo Jackson was clearly trying to tell me something, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what he was saying. Finally I told him to sign and when he did I saw clearly that he wanted to go the potty. Voila!

Finally, I like "sportscasting" about our world for Jackson in sign language the same way I enjoy narrating it in spoken English, just because it's kind of fun for me. Jackson doesn't need to know the word coffee (in English or in ASL), but every morning I say and sign that, "The teakettle is loud because mama's making her hot coffee." There doesn't need to be a sign for coffee in there, but that sign is fun for me to do and fun for him to see, and I think it adds to the texture of our communication.

WHERE TO NEXT: I've been experimenting with showing Jackson the Baby Signing Time and Signing Time! series on TV each day before lunch. It's Jackson's only major source of TV short of watching The McLaughlin Group and Meet the Press with daddy, and so far he vacillates between getting excited to signs he already knows and cherishes (like baby) and not caring one whit what's on the screen.

I've been collecting the Signing Time! episodes via our TiVo (they air once a week at the crack of dawn on one of our local PBS stations), and I think I'm going to watch one each ep with him every day for a week and see if there's any visible sign acquisition or comprehension. And even if there's not, either I'll learn some signs and have new earworms to hum, or I'll at least get half an hour a day when he's maybe not climbing physically on top of my head. :)

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