Friday, November 14, 2008

Charlotte Speaks, In Her Own Way

I knew from the beginning of motherhood that I wanted to teach my children sign language. The benefits are well documented and can be found with a simple Google search. We began teaching Charlotte signs when she was 7 or 8 months old. I concentrated on a couple of key signs (milk, all-done) that I knew would enhance her ability to communicate with us her most important needs. I figured that milk was her greatest need, and letting us know she was done with something would prevent us from pushing her past the point of enjoyment, or fulfillment, when it came to food.

Since I knew some sign language from a class I took as a teenager, I just started with that. Eventually, I moved onto using sign language DVDs. My favorite has become the Signing Time series. I sit with Charlotte several times a week and we sing the songs and try to make the signs together. Then, while we are moving along in our daily life, I try to reinforce the signs we've seen on the video, or add new ones as the opportunity presents itself.

The hands on experience has been Charlotte's best way for learning new signs. While we were at Sea World last month, I was able to teach her the sign for cold by having her touch a wall of ice. I would touch the wall, and then sign and say cold.

Some people might be concerned about oral language delays in babies that are taught sign language. I knew that it might be a possibility, but have not worried about it because Charlotte would catch up in the end, plus have her sign language. Then, when we discussed this with Dr. Enlow, Charlotte's pediatrician, at her 15-month check-up, Dr. Enlow told us that she actually considers Charlotte advanced in language because she knows about 35 signs.

The words Charlotte can sign include: bird, ball, cheese, banana, grapes, orange, cracker, shoes, close, open, apple, hug, love, drink, ice cream, mommy, daddy, baby, girl, boy, more, play, hungry, thirsty, happy, please, kitty cat, doggie, cold, car, all done, wet, bubbles, signing and hat. There might be more, but I can't think of them right now.

I was surprised at how long the list actually is. Bruce and I have been adding to the list for a day or so and keep thinking of other words that she knows.

While we watch the DVDs, did you know that some local PBS stations used to air Signing Time? But not anymore. I just found out this week that Signing Time is going off the air due to a lack of sponsorship. That makes me sad because I know not everyone can afford the DVDs or other materials, or may not even be aware that they exist. If you personally have any contacts at corporations that might be willing to sponsor Signing Time on PBS, share this blog post from the c0-creator, Rachel. She does a good job explaining the hows of producing a show for public television. (HT: Babychaser)

Here is a short video clip of Charlotte signing bird and learning to sign cold. I'll try to get more video in the next couple of weeks to share with you so you can see what it looks like when my 15 month old uses her hands to speak.


  1. Very cool! Esme doesn't know nearly as many - I haven't been demonstrating as much as I'd like to... And part of the problem is getting her to actually look at me when I'm signing something!

  2. when my toddler turned 18-months, i worried that he has speech delays, so we applied him for early intervention. our facilitator reinforced the use of baby signs and other things, but the sessions didn't work for us. so we dropped out...

    but before we know it, he started to utter words, of course in a baby fashion - missing letter and syllables but we are just more than happy that he speaks now and able to interact thru words. i blogged about it here:

    they do catch up on speech so there really is nothing to worry about, especailly for you and your daughter since the 'sign' seems to be working well as a manner of communication ...

    on the side comment, she is so cute!


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