We were excited to start teaching Violet sign language, hoping that this kind of tool would help ease the frustration she so obviously felt about not being able to do everything herself all the time. So, at about 8 months, we ordered a book and video (Dr. Garcia of the giant mustache) and got started. We stuck with a few basics: eat, milk, more, all done, kitty. And repeated, repeated, repeated… and nothing. She seemed to know what we were saying, she just wasn’t trying the signs.
Then, at around 12 months, something clicked. Bird was really her first sign. She’s always been a wiz at the pincer grip, so “bird” was a natural. Now she excitedly tells us when she sees or hears a bird. After that, the signs kept coming. And she’s picking them up faster. It’s amazing to watch. She’s so proud that she’s actually communicating with us. In fact, she’ll often tell me something I’m not aware of; I’ll see her signing “dog” and realize there is a dog barking in the distance that I hadn’t noticed.
Sometimes we have to consider context, though. She doesn’t have the more subtle limb movements down yet, so signs that are are close to the mouth, like “eat”, “water” and “kitty”, for example, all seem a little too similar sometimes. “Horse” and “cow” are the same right now. I’m not sure if she thinks they’re the same kind of animal, or if she just can’t get her thumb out. And she heroically struggles to get both fingers to work together for “dance”.
One of the most interesting things I’ve seen, though, is the sign-babbling. I’m not sure if it’s the same sign-babbling that deaf babies do, or even hearing babies of deaf parents. But she definitely goes into her own head and practices hand movements over and over; going from “hat” to “down” to “cow”, or something she’s trying to make up herself, I guess. Also, when she’s obviously attempting to tell me something she doesn’t know the word for, she’ll quickly go through the signs she knows before she gives up. I wish I had a more extensive vocabulary, just to help her out in that situation.
We watch “Signing Times” on PBS every Thursday at 8 a.m. It’s a fun show. I’m not sure if it’s helping Violet right now, but she loves to dance and sing to the songs.