My son has always been on the slower end of milestones. Some say he’s lazy and stubborn and some say that he has delays that need to be addressed. Regardless of which side of the opinions you are on, the truth of the matter is that he wasn’t (and still isn’t) talking at 18 months and so we decided to work with the Early Intervention program to help him along.
In early August he qualified for the speech therapy program by having a 45% delay in speech development. He had a small handful of words at one point but then somehow lost them and never spoke anything again. He was babbling like crazy though, so we were really pleased to see his desire to communicate in there somewhere!
He began working with his therapist late August of this year and it is remarkable the progress he has made in just a few short months. I’m SO looking forward to seeing the progress continue as the months and year(s) go by! One thing that has helped tremendously to communicate with him is sign language!
Most people think that is rather contradictory as you would think that by teaching a child to sign (who isn’t deaf) that you are encouraging them to sign over talking. It is quite the opposite!! In order to speak the language you need to understand it first. By learning to communicate what you want and understand what others are telling you, you have to understand and process thoughts, feelings, needs, wants…etc…etc… Sign language does just that. Since my son isn’t able to communicate to me by saying “I’m hungry” he is able to let me know simply by signing “eat”.
We quickly learned that my son is extremely motivated by food. Haha. The signs that he’s picked up on with most ease revolved around food and now he’s a pro at signing a two word sentence “eat more” and “all done”. Since we have mastered those four signs/ two sentences, we are now starting to introduce signs that are related to food that he can use on a daily basis.
Milk, water, juice, cracker are the ones we are trying to teach him currently and I’m sure that he will be signing all of them rather soon!
Want to know how to introduce signs to your children? It’s very easy to start but from personal experience just don’t get discouraged as it can take a LOT of repetition and encouragement before they start repeating signs back to you!
First, choose maybe 1-2 signs that you think your child will use frequently. “More” and “eat” are very good options to start. You can use “more” not only with food but “More music?”, “More play?”, “More kisses?” …you get the idea!
Next you will need to model the sign for them any time you verbally say the word out loud. After you have introduced the sign a few times, try taking their hands and signing the sign for them. For instance, to sign more you put your hands together and tap your fingers. I would grab my son’s hands and try as best as I could to get him to tap his fingers together.
Don’t worry if they don’t sign exactly the right way. As long as they are signing the same way each time for a word (and YOU know what they’re talking about) its totally ok! My son has his own unique way of signing “more” but we all know that’s what he wants!
I hope this helps someone out there who is trying to incorporate sign language into their child’s life. As always, if you feel like your child is in need of assistance with their speech, I can’t recommend highly enough getting an evaluation done by you local Early Intervention. Ages birth-3years old are the most important years for our children’s growth and learning!
***To find some common first signs for babies and how to sign them, check out the website that got us started Baby’s First Signs ***
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