10 Simple Ways to Boost your child’s use of ASL (American Sign Language)

Signing "Baby" at his cousin's baby shower

Signing “Baby” at his cousin’s baby shower

Before our son was born, I only knew a few signs from a TV show I started watching when I was pregnant called Switched at Birth. http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/switched-at-birth(Its kind of a teen-type drama, but I know several adults who love it, too! I just love learning about deaf culture and watching people sign with and without talking, with and without subtitles.)

We started making ASL (American Sign Language) an all-day, everyday part of our lives, however, when we learned that our son had Down Syndrome and that many parents are using this as a way to help with the language delay. I had already met some typical toddlers (and sometimes younger) who signed to help prevent tantrums before they could speak, and I think it is great for any kid to learn at any age! So first of all, a few reasons why we use signing, then I will make a list of tips to really boost how often your family uses ASL and how to use a variety of signs.

WHY SIGN?

1) Kids can sign prior to speaking, helping minimize tantrums.
2) Giving kids tools to communicate other than talking can help you see what they understand already. With our son, his receptive (receiving, taking in) communication far precedes his expressive communication. Signing has helped us understand how smart our little guy is. He understands quite a bit!
3) There has been a connection found among children who sign early and those who read early.
4) I personally like to use it myself so you can make a quick request or comment while eating, in quiet places like church, etc.
5) Your child and family will have a community of people you can communicate with on some level and who knows what opportunities for ministry, jobs, etc. this could open?

Visit http://www.signingtime.com/sign-language-for-babies/ to find more on this. (There is also a list for why signing is important for kids. There are several good resources and products to be found on the website.)

10 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CHILD’S USE OF ASL
1) If your child isn’t born yet, start as young as possible! If your child is a toddler or older, STILL start! Its never too late!

2) We started by watching Baby Signing Time and Signing Time with our child to learn the signs along with him. Baby Signing Time is 4 DVDs that use everyday signs and then some that are relevant to 0-2yrs old. Signing Time is designed for older kids, but our son loves it! He loves the intro song and other songs. Signing Time has several DVDs and a newer edition of episodes that are currently on Netflix. We bought ours used from someone (who found hers on amazon), but I’ve been told there are some at local libraries if you aren’t ready to buy your own set. We bought the Baby Signing Time one as a Christmas gift for Ethan, and he loves those as well. Both sets are very musical, which helps to recall signs and helps keep children’s interest.

Many parents of children with Down Syndrome (as well as autism) use Baby Signing Time and Signing Time to help children who need assistance with expressing language they understand BEFORE they have the speech capability to express it.

Many parents of children with Down Syndrome (as well as autism) use Baby Signing Time and Signing Time to help children who need assistance with expressing language they understand BEFORE they have the speech capability to express it.

3) Listen to any audio CDs that come in sets from Signing Time so your child can sign along and have even more practice while in the car! If you teach your child signs from other songs not on Signing Time series, the same principle of listening and practicing can help. Also, since its important for the parent to know ASL to teach it, try signing either in your head or with your hands while listening to any song or dialogue while driving (thus doing it in your head), at concerts, while watching TV (Remember to check out http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/switched-at-birth Switched at Birth to see some more ASL), etc. Its kind of fun to see how much you know after awhile!

4) Download some Ipad apps like “Baby Sign” http://www.babysignandlearn.com/baby-sign-and-learn-asl-for-iphone-and-ipad that uses animated babies, flashcards, quizzes, and signing demos. You can get it free to see if it holds your kid’s interest and then buy it for a buck or two. Regular flashcard apps like I Toddler ap can also be a good way to quiz your child’s signing skills. (They can sign it when they hear the word and see the pictures on the flashcards.)

5) You can purchase flashcards and books from the Signing Time company, or you could make your own. We haven’t done any signing-specific flashcards because the other methods have worked well, but if you have some extra money to spend, I’m sure it would be well worth it and your kid would love seeing the Signing Time characters on and off the screen! My son loves it so much, it will be his 2nd birthday party theme! (More on that to come. 🙂 )

6) This is the MOST crucial tip in my opinion…and that is to sign everything you say (any sign you already know) to your child. Say the word and sign at the same time..you still want your child to speak, but if you really trust the benefits of signing as a secondary language, then you will want to do it as much as possible. Even before you see any attempts on your child’s part to sign, keep it up!! (We started around 2 months old and saw no signing until around 10 months old or later.) Once Ethan started to sign, though, he added on new signs every month. Now he does so many it is hard to keep up with what he can sign. Because of Ethan’s speech delay, he only says a few words but predominately signs to communicate.

7) Be patient! Your child probably understands what you are saying well before they actually produce the sign. And remember the way your child signs may not be exactly how the sign is taught, so look for any attempt to communicate using their hands and pay attention to context in which they are using the signs. Ethan started signing “more” by pushing his thumbs against his highchair tray. That is not very close to the actual sign for “more” but because of context we realized what he was doing.

Signing "finished!"

Signing “finished!”

8) When you see your child signing, praise him/her RIGHT away and make a huge deal of it! Ethan started signing “more”, for example, and we would put food straight into his mouth that he was asking for; that way, he would get the connection better than waiting 30 seconds to a minute to come around and give him another puff.

9) Try to watch a little Signing Time daily. If this isn’t doable, signing a song and signing with your child before bed or reading a book, doing flashcards, etc. could be helpful.

10) Interact with others using signing…teach your extended family some signs, let your child teach others, or let your child sign with another child who signs or a deaf friend/acquantaince. I don’t personally know anyone right now who is deaf, but I would think they would be glad to sign with your child and your family.

There they are! If you have any questions I haven’t covered, feel free to comment in the section. I have heard that some teachers use ASL to accompany their directions to get kids’ attention and it was very effective for kindergarten age. Share any other tips you know of. Thanks for reading!

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22 Month Milestones and sleep apnea

HE CAN WALK!!!! Ethan finally took some of his first steps this month! Just before this, he started sitting to standing with no assistance! 12 steps in a row is currently the record.

EATING/DRINKING
We have been working with him drinking from a straw because it is recommended to help kids with low muscle tone build the muscles while drinking from the straw. We tried to no avail with the Honey Bear cup, and then we finally found some thicker “Bubba” straws thanks to a few friends who recommended them! Ethan has done pretty well with them so far. I ended up ditching the cup for the time being and just sucking some into the straw myself, holding the liquid there, then offering the straw to Ethan. We’ve had to take a break from practice because he is really congested right now and is less interested in eating in general during the course of his cold.

Ethan has been eating bits of cheddar and is in love with pretzels. Still mostly pureed..we have been told we should be thankful for the variety he DOES eat, though, because some kids eat only puree or have feeding tubes for a long time. Every kid is different, its just about celebrating the steps they make and knowing you are trying your best for your kid and to be content in that. 🙂 But don’t get me wrong, we do try to push for the highest potential in Ethan and his interventions. Still..being content is something I’m allowing God to work on with me, and that includes where Ethan is in his development.

SIGNS: Newest ones are “book.” ( he is in love with his books.)

table, cold, again, down, etc. I really can hardly keep up he tries out so many new signs. We usually watch a little Signing Time (on DVD or some newer ones on Netflix) or Baby Signing Time each day and I sign along with everything I say to Ethan. We also have an I Pad “Baby Sign” ap. Honestly, the biggest help is doing signs as you go though, I believe.

OTHER COMMUNICATION and MEMORY RECALL: signals “I love you”, not ASL, but a special signal his Daddy taught him. 🙂 points to chest, then to us. Ethan’s memory seems to have lengthened quite a bit..he will recall games we play or words from a song. If I leave off a lyric, he will sign the word that comes next even if I wasn’t signing at all in the first place.

FLASHCARDS: This sounded really early to me when I first heard of people having toddlers use flashcards, but it is especially recommended for kids with Down Syndrome to learn whole word language through flashcards first. (I am not the expert on that, but this is what I have gathered from talking to parents and researching programs online.) I want Ethan to already recognize several words when he enters kindergarten so that he has that boost of “hey, I can read!” while he works on whatever methods are taught by the time he enters school (right now it is phonics, I believe, just as when I was in kindergarten.)

We are using flashcards i made from cut out magazine pictures or drawn symbols to accompany the words themselves. Ethan recognizes the “banana” card as well as the “up”, “down”, “ball” and “cheese” card. He only needed a word prompt for “cheese” as of yesterday out of the above mentioned words. We do not drill on it all day, maybe once per day at most. I have read that going through the cards quickly is the idea in working with kiddos with DS so as to keep their interest.

FIRST TIME IN “SUNDAY SCHOOL”
Because of Ethan’s sicknesses, quarantine before and after heart surgery, flu season, etc. , we had never left him in a church nursery until a few weeks ago. He went to a toddler room at a “megachurch” as many would call it, so there were upwards of ten other toddlers in the room, who could all walk pretty well from what I could tell. I was concerned Ethan would be overwhelmed, but he signed “please!” to me to go into the room and tried to open the doorknob so he could go in and PLAY! I hid around the corner then peered in to see how he was doing, and he was already standing and trying to walk toward another child. It did my heart good to see how much he enjoyed himself. The Sunday School worker said that he was “like a pro” and only cried when I came to pick him up. 😉 We’re hoping to slowly work him up to being around more and more kids at once. Hopefully he will be ready to join a developmental center next summer when he is 3 years old.

OUTPATIENT THERAPY CENTER
Ethan had been receiving all 3 therapies in the home, but he now goes up for his 3x week PT and 2 x week speech at the center, meaning he is having more exposure to other kids. I think its been good for him.

POTTY TRAINING. He goes “pee” in the potty every time he is put on the potty…I mean every-time. He still hasn’t signaled for us to take him, therefore we bought some cloth diapers to save money in the meantime because we think it could be a bit before he is fully potty-trained. He’s got Cars, Pirates, Monsters, (from Sunbabydiapers) the works on boyish diapers. Going really well so far!

ABOUT THE SLEEP APNEA..

First of all, I will share a link from a website that is a great resource on all things Down Syndrome because they have done all the research and word things so well, whereas most of what I write tends to be more reflective of our experience (although I will share some info along the way..)

Information about what sleep apena is and why people with Down Syndrome have it so frequently:https://www.ndss.org/Resources/Health-Care/Associated-Conditions/Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea–Down-Syndrome/

Since Ethan has had a pronounced snore and has some difficulty oxygenating at night while in the hospital for RSV this season, he was scheduled for a sleep study. At the sleep study, there were wires all over, and he had to sleep on his back. He also had to sleep with these pediatric arm weights/restraints. Not very conducive to sleeping, but he did end up falling asleep for 6 hours.

A few things you may want to know if your kid is getting a sleep study (at same hospital as us, if you know us personally you know where..)
1)Its VERY cold.
2) Your kid may need restraints if they're young.
3) If your kid has an early bedtime, say 7:30, they will not get to bed on time at the study.

It was found that he has mild sleep apnea (They measure obstructions, oxygen saturations, and things of that nature.) We are waiting to hear for sure from the ENT since that is who will make the "call" on getting his adenoids out, but his pulmonologist (lung doc) said she thought the ENT would probably choose to have Ethan's adenoids, and maybe tonsils, removed. This should help with the apnea as well as swallowing issues (although I do not think it will completely get rid of the issues from what I have heard.) He will go to see ENT at end of June, so we will see for sure at that point! Adventure, adventure.

Exciting months ahead, though! Baby BOY cousin on the way (Ryan's bro's son) as well as the big "2" for Ethan!

What’s In a Mom?

A mix of funny and serious things I wish to be and continue to be for my son, as well as what I have seen in my mother and other inspiring mothers. Happy Mother’s Day.

What’s in a Mom?

DSC_0363

Womb for rent,
punching bag,
vending machine,
24/7 cuddler.

Diaper changer,
hall-pacer,
personal singer-songwriter,
prayer warrior,
smile-maker,
kiss-giver.

Pack mule,
life-saver,
24/7 CPR and small-object-from-mouth extraction specialist,
schedule-juggler,
chauffer,
chef.

Personal Barney,
personal DJ and
Rule Enforcer.

Dishwasher,
teacher,
and sage.

Motivational speaker,
listener, Rock, and
shoulder to cry on.

Cheerleader,
Mama Bear,
Role Model.