There is a large sign-language training program in Tucson, Arizona. I know this because in the year that I lived in that town, people would practically pee in their pants when they saw my ginormous hearing aids. They'd start to sign furiously. They refused to talk to me unless I was looking directly at them.
It was pretty annoying.
Then when I started my UC Berkeley sojourn, I hit it again. Oh! You're deaf! And then a frenzy of hand motions followed. It reminded me of Chris Rock speaking Chinese while doing "karate", some flurry of something coupled with a lot of mismatched mouth movement.
I'd smile politely…wait…. nod….wait while they hand-flurry-smurried….smile politely a bit more….wait… smiled a bit more tightly, a tad more brightly, raising my eyebrows: all right? You done with that now? Because I don't sign. No, really. I don't. I don't sign. No, stop it. Just stop it already.
And sure, a big fat chunk of that was my being able and willing and ready to be a part of my own D/deaf culture. Accept my people, claim them. And let them accept me, hopefully claim me back. When the time came and I was ready, I took a class at the local Community College and it was beyond brilliant. I adored it. And swiftly thereafter was unable to continue as I went and got myself pregnant, married and all the rest of it.
Fast forward two years. I had a typically-developing son who at 20 months wasn't doing much more than voicing profound grunts. And I found out that the baby I was carrying, Moxie, would be coming with an extra chromosome. On the heels of that news, I found out that kids with Down syndrome apparently take to signing like ducks to water so I thought, all right. We are going to do it. We, as a family, are going to learn how to sign.
Then and there, 6 months pregnant, I took Micah and waddled on over to the public library. Borrowed every last video on sign language learning they had, watched them and just about passed out from the sheer boredom of it all. It knocked me out faster than an episode of Super Why!. Boooooo-ring does not capture the near-exquisite ache of sheer misery those programs put my woebegone self through.
Wretched, I reached for the last remaining DVD we had to wade through, one rather cheerfully entitled, "Signing Time", "great…just great", I thought, wearily and warily looking at the cover featuring a bright and perky lady in an orange sweater and – what, bandaids on her fingers? – Bleh.
And then…(drumroll)...the song floated through – "there's singing time, there's playing time…", "signing time with Alex and Leah…" and it all stuck to the treacly parts of my brain like jam on bread (or Christmas carols and a mall). I liked it! And more, MICAH did too! Woo-hoo!
Micah watched a few episodes of Signing Time and all of the sudden, he was signing over 50 words. He shot off and we were struggling to keep up with him. He couldn't get enough of it. Or of Rachel Coleman. He signed and signed and signed some more until everything clicked together in the magical way it does with children and he just started to talk.
Moxie is 18 month old now. She signs milk, more, finished, play, eat. I am not worried in the slightest about her communication, nor of the future she faces with communication. She signs and that's just perfect. If and when she talks, we'll focus on helping her speech unfold as gorgeously and gloriously as we can. But you know what? I can wait. And I am fine with it not happening at all, too. Nonverbal signers are wonderful communicators and really, that's all I want: to be able to communicate with my precious girl.
I want to be able to know when she wants some milk
Or a snack
However that happens.
It is intensely ironic to me that having my daughter has helped me to learn to converse with my own D/deaf tribe. It's ironic to me that I also am unafraid of my own future and possible complete hearing loss, thanks to my daughter and the gift of sign language. It is ironic to me that it took Moxie's coming to actually give Micah the tools he needed at the time to communicate.
And it was Signing Time that did it: that genius program that blends the catchiest of all tunes with beguiling children and an effervescently Poppins-esque teacher: Rachel.
(the above was originally posted on Nov 21, 2011 – Moxie is now 2 and a half years old! And signs even more!)
In this Month of Moxie – celebrating Down syndrome Awareness, our Signing Time Awareness Champions will be giving away 2 copies of Family, Feelings and Fun + the Digital Guide to Using Signing Time with Children who have Down syndrome.
Just fill out the Rafflecopter below:
I love Rachel's blog, Strong Enough – and while you are there, read her take on Cochlear Implants – It's a good one.
Even if you don't want to participate in the Giveaway, please go to the Signing Time Facebook Page and "like them", or drop them a line about what they've done for you and yours. I know it means a lot to them.
Giveaway Fine Print:
I was not paid for this post nor have I received anything for it. All opinions expressed are purely my own.
Giveaway open to residents of the United States and Canada. Winner will be randomly selected and notified via email and on the blog. Email address must be linked to comment. Winner will be mailed directly from the folks at Signing Time.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.
How cool! We love Signing Times…the third is Ty's favorite!
I love looking at all your old posts!
Ev's favourite sign right now is more. Everything is more. We are working on eat and play, but she's not taking to them very quickly. Ah well, all things in time!
This post is the one that made me realize that Hailey not speaking wasn't my biggest fear. It was non-communicating that I was afraid of. That fear is gone for now…she does a pretty good job of communicating!!!
I love reading your blog! I just don't say much 🙂
Well, I”m just glad you love it!! xo
Aahhh, I remember this post with great fondness. I remember thinking "of course Meriah doesn't sign. She has hearing aids to help her hear!" and then "Yes! I thought the same thing about the colored band aids on Rachel" and finally "MOXIE-Licious!!!!!!"
"What are you feeling? What are you feeling? Don't keep it bottled up inside try try try. Try to tell me what's inside-side-side. . . . Do you feel grumyp? Do you feel scared?" 🙂
Ugh! You put that earworm in my head!!
But you know, Anna, I can’t hear almost anything without the hearing aids. I am really at a point in which we have to, if I don’t have them in….
Ugh — was just working on a comment and it disappeared. Do you sign with any friends? I never got fluent because I never had anyone to sign with. We did lots of classes early on with Ben, but now his teacher wants us to take another one — but we're finding it hard to fit everything in. I love Signing Times and we did a cool interview with Rachel: http://bloom-parentingkidswithdisabilities.blogspot.ca/2010/12/rachel-coleman-live-big-and-live-loud.html
Would like to hear more about whether you use sign separate from when you're with Moxie and Micah.
Louise, yes, I remember your interview with Rachel! I loved it!
And yes, I do sign separately from with the kids, but not often. We have a deaf community center closeby and I’d love to be more active with it. Also, one of my best friends is Deaf; signs.
I am FAR from fluent though. Long, long way to go
Loved this post. I seems like you had an experience similar to mine where you went thru some of the boring sign language programs until you found the good one. I liked Signing Time so much, I just got certified to be an instructor. Hope to have my first class soon. Sign language is great for all kids.
We are ST junkies. So much so that I get defensive when a friend or family member says anything not expressly flattering about it after seeing Cora watch it, rapt. We took her to Signing Time live a few months ago. I think that signing is something she really loves, so it is so good for her. At 21 months now she has almost 90 signs (although many of them look alike due to her still developing finger control!) Love it!
I love it that Kamdyn signs. My husband just started a signing class on Monday nights. He comes home and teaches us all the signs he has learned. Our family loves it. We're big Signing Time fans too.
I really really want Liddy to learn to say "I love you". I know that she does love me but oh, there are no sweeter words in the English language (or sign language) than those three coming from your children…especially for the first time. 🙂
Thank you for posting this . . . what a beautiful girl! I started learning finger spelling as a baby and toddler, which led to early reading (age three) and the evolution to a career in proofreading and research reading. Signing has been a blessing to me in so many ways, and my silent vocabulary increases as often as possible. I started signing to my godchildren from the time of their births, and they are all becoming successful communicators.
Rafflecopter isn't working, but we would LOVE to win! We have borrowed a few videos from friends, and would love to have our own copies, as my kids LOVE them, and we are teaching our 8th son (who has Ds) to use signs. I've used signs since my 5th son, so we know some, but we will probably need to learn a lot more to facilitate communication with Seth. I love following your blog!
My grandson signs "more" & "me"and he loves Signing times on Nick Jr.
jofo120 at yahoo dot com
Thank you for sharing, my brother and a nephew are autistic and both use sign to communicate! I am not proficient in sign but would love to learn more. Maybe you can suggest some options in California where one could go to learn.
My son with DS is only 10 weeks old, but I used some sign language with my daughter when she was a baby. The sign that was most useful to us was, "help." I would ususally see her little thumb pop up as she struggled to get a toy out of a basket or reach for something just a bit too far away. I believe it prevented many screams of frustration. "Stop" was also a good one because she took it seriously and I didn't have to be the mom scolding her child in public. I definitely plan to reintroduce signing into our household again and have started refreshing with my now six year old daughter.
I'm not sure what my favorite sign is yet, but I learned about Signing Time shortly after Moriah (now 5 months) was born and we began our journey on the path of Down syndrome. My library graciously ordered the set of Baby Signing Time, and my other daughters (8 and 4) watched them over and over and over and have learned all the signs. Very catchy songs, and we love watching all the little ones sign. What fabulous videos Rachel Coleman has put together.
We have Leah's Farm and my DS son love it. I would love to have others in the ST series.
Elijah is 13 months old and we are working on all done, more and eat. I think he recognizes them but he does not sign them consistently. We are all getting a kick out of the first Signing Time DVD.
New to the blog, but glad I found this. It's easy to get discouraged when trying to teach our lil one to communicate. This gave me more hope, and steered me in the right direction.
I like doing more but I really want my son to learn diaper. By the way she is so beautiful!!!!!
My daughters first sign was 'all done' — I would like her to learn 'I love you'
I am a prescool teacher and when I'm working with the babies we use 'more' 'all done' 'please and 'thank you' the most 🙂
I always enjoy hearing your perspective. And we love signing time at our house too!
we love ST. fav signs, all done, please & more.
Ditto. Love Signing Times. My son (6 – DS) is a late talker even for DS. We are finding that the first words he signed are the first words he is speaking. So the sign language laid a foundation for the speaking – like a baby step towards speaking I guess. It has been really amazing to watch. Your daughter is a cutie!!!
Thank you, Alyson!