Monday, March 13, 2017

Baby Signing Time—not just for babies!

As I’ve mentioned before, my 3.5-year-old son Oliver has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and some difficulty with communication. He isn’t completely nonverbal, but his speech is limited to just a few words—“go,” “yeah,” and occasionally “no” and “ma”—so we’ve tried encouraging additional means of communication, particularly sign language.

Back in the fall, Oliver’s speech therapist lent us four Baby Signing Time DVDs—to use indefinitely since Oliver is her only patient who currently needs them.

I couldn’t say enough positive things about them.

The DVDs feature Emmy-nominated host Rachel Coleman, a singer who has a daughter who’s deaf. During most of the show time, Rachel wears a yellow jacket with orange elbow pads, and has blue tape wrapped around the end of each index finger and thumb, and orange tape around her other fingers. This color coding makes it easy to see the position of her elbows, fingers, and thumbs when she introduces new signs.

Each DVD introduces approximately 25 new signs in American Sign Language and consists of several chapters. For example, the "Here I Go" DVD introduces 24 ASL signs and has 8 chapters, including "One Shoe," "Here I Go," and "I Wash My Hands." In the chapter "One Shoe," Rachel begins by showing the sign for shoe, explaining "Tap your fists together, like a pair of shoes." Then she repeats the sign and the word "shoes," and she smiles and says "Your turn." The background is plain white, except for a cartoon image labeled with the word "shoes" in the upper right, making it easy to focus on the sign and its meaning.

Then the camera shifts to a young child making the sign for "shoes," and then to another, and yet anotherto a total of 7 kids. I think it's fantastic that the producer chose to do this, for several reasons: (1) The repetition is helpful for learning the signs. (2) Seeing other children make a sign can be a good motivator for your child to try it. (3) The way young children make signs is different from the way adults make them. Young children are less precise in the positioning of their elbows, fingers, and thumbs. By showing many young children approximating the same sign, the DVD highlights the variability in the way the sign can look, thus showing parents what it might look like when their child tries it.

Throughout each chapter there is a song. In the "One Shoe" chapter, while Rachel and the children are showing the sign for "shoe," the song is just background music. Then Rachel sings a simple tune that incorporates the sign, providing further repetition and opportunity for learning. She repeats this framework for each new sign: introducing a sign, having young children make the sign, and then incorporating the sign into the chapter's song, with some playful animation sprinkled in. In the "One Shoe" chapter, in addition to the sign for "shoe" she introduces signs for "socks," "hat," and "coat" and, at the end, incorporates all four signs into the chapter's song, as a review.

These DVDs are approved not only by me, a parent. My son absolutely LOVES them.

Oliver watching Baby Signing Time

And, importantly, he's slowly learning new signs from them. In his case, my husband and I have found that the DVDs must be supplemented with us showing Oliver the signs and helping him at first to make them, by placing our hands over his and doing the motions for him. I suspect that this is because of Oliver's difficulty with motor planning, meaning that as a consequence of his cerebral palsy, his brain has difficulty telling his hands how to move.

Thankfully, with practice, he's learned to make a variety of signs, including those for "more," "all done," "wash hands," and (most importantly in his mind) "cookie."

Baby Signing Time DVDs can be purchased through the Signing Time website, and rented or purchased through Amazon. I'm in no way affiliated with either of these websites; I'm just wanting to share a resource that has been helpful for my family.

No comments:

Post a Comment