When my daughter was first born, I knew I wanted to try signing with her, but I felt OVERWHELMED. So I put it off and put it off, until I met Rianne Maldonado. Watching her sign with her kids was totally inspiring, and when I found out she taught a class in American Sign Language for babies through her company Baby Moon Services, I had to go! Today she is sharing with us how she got started, and why signing with your baby has some amazing benefits! Take it away Rianne!
In early 2009 I gave birth to my second child, a little girl we named Ruby. When Ruby was just 8 weeks old we moved from our home state of California to Tucson, AZ. After getting settled in, I began taking Ruby to story time at the local library. When she was about 4 months old we went to our usual story time, but this time it was special. There was a “Sign and Story Time” where the storyteller would use American Sign Language (ASL) vocabulary to help tell the story. I was instantly in love the ASL and decided to speak to the presenter after class. When she told me that she taught ASL classes for babies I signed up for all of them. When I came home and told my husband that I was going to learn ASL and teach it to our 4 month old daughter he thought I was crazy.
When Ruby was 6 months old my husband and I took her out to a restaurant. Not long into the meal Ruby pointed at her cup of water on the table and did the sign for “water.” We were amazed and excited! We were probably acting like crazy people ourselves because we were so in awe of our tiny 6 month old baby telling us she wanted water by using ASL.
Needless to say, after that my husband was a believer and even a supporter of using ASL with Ruby. He began to learn some signs as well.
Ruby’s signing vocabulary exploded and not long after so did her spoken vocabulary. It was incredible to watch. Now, my husband was excited to share with people why we chose to sign with her. He noticed that our friends’ children were throwing tantrums and screaming and pointing when they wanted to be heard, but Ruby was able to merely sign what she needed or wanted. If we were unable to understand what she was saying we would ask her to use the sign as well as speak and then we would be able to figure out what she needed. For example, when she would say “ba” we didn’t know if she meant “ball,” or “bath,” but if we asked her to sign as well then we knew what she meant. This saved her the frustration of not being able to have her needs met and it made us feel more confident that we could truly know and understand what she wanted to tell us.
Even as Ruby grew to 2 and 3 years of age and could speak very well, she continued to learn new signs. It was really fun and enjoyable to learn new signs together whenever one of us would say, “I wonder how you sign —?” We would look it up together and practice our new skills. I also started using more “fingerspelling” with her, which is using the ASL alphabet to sign each letter of a word or, for example, someone’s name. Quickly, Ruby was able to not only sign “dog,” but could also fingerspell d-o-g. This helped her begin reading at a very early age. She was able to connect signs (symbols) with letters and put meaning to them to begin early literacy skills. She was beginning to be truly bi-lingual.
People would ask us out in public if she was deaf and when we would say no they would ask why we were using ASL with her. The reasons to sign with babies are many and all very exciting in my opinion. Babies naturally gesture from a very early age to communicate their needs such as pointing or waving bye-bye. Adding ASL vocabulary is merely giving them more “gestures” to use. This helps to end the frantic guessing game of “Why is my baby crying?!” Many babies have a larger spoken vocabulary when they know ASL possibly because we tend to slow down and repeat the words that we are signing therefore helping to reinforce the spoken word. Another reason is that babies love to please us! They love to see us smile and cheer for them. It gives them self-assurance and self-esteem to do something that gets a positive response from their caregiver in addition to getting them what they were originally asking for. Imagine how frustrated or sad you would be if you were frantically trying to tell someone that you didn’t feel well or that you were very thirsty and they couldn’t understand you. Signing with your baby can help! By signing with your baby or toddler you are also providing the foundation for a second language as your baby grows up. They may meet a deaf friend in the neighborhood or at school or may even decide to become fluent in ASL and have a career as an interpreter. The possibilities are endless!
- You can start any time! Its never too early or too late to sign with your child
- Using signing language does not delay speech development
- Babies will naturally transition from signing to more talking
- Use your new signs frequently and consistently
- If you get frustrated-take a break for a few weeks and come back. It should be fun!
- Encourage everyone who spends a lot of time with your baby to learn a few signs!
I am a firm believer in the benefits of using ASL with children of any age. I encourage everyone to give it a try. I know that signing with my children has enhanced our bonding. Even my son who is 17! The benefits and uses are endless. I know for a fact that my daughter was reading and writing much earlier than her peers because of ASL. I’ve experienced nothing but positive results of using ASL in my family and teaching others to use it as well. I hope you will give signing a try and enjoy it as much as we have!
For more information check out www.babymoonservices.com or contact Rianne Maldonado at Babymoonservices@gmail.com. And check back in tomorrow, when we’ll be doing a giveaway for a FREE Signing With Baby Class from Rianne!