Back when I was pregnant, Chris and I decided that we weren't going to teach our kids sign language. According to the research we had found, signing typically delays speech in toddlers. Which made sense to us-- why step out of your comfort zone and try to speak, when you can just keep signing and getting what you want?
That seemed plenty logical to me-- even though I'm actually a complete advocate of signing, having taken 5 semesters of it at BYU. I didn't want to encourage "lazniess" in my child and give her an easy way out of learning how to verbally communicate.
Fast forward to Emma at almost 22 months. Still not saying any words. Not even "Mama" or "Dada." She hated books and being read to. She couldn't communicate when she wanted to something to eat, or drink, or when she was cold, or when she wanted to go outside. She didn't even really throw tantrums-- and aside from facial expressions (of which there were a plethora), she just didn't communicate much at all! I didn't even realize there was a problem, honestly. Her motor skills were developing wonderfully, and she was happy and healthy!
But her pediatrician expressed some concern about her lack of speech and suggested with meet with a speech therapist. A few visits into speech therapy, I could really see where there was an obvious hitch in her development.
They were quick to suggest we try Signing Time. I'd heard of it before-- our neighbors love it-- but, like I said, we'd really been against teaching her how to sign. But-- our methods obviously weren't working, so we gave it a shot.
Not to sound too much like an awful-lazy-parent here, but all I did was leave that DVD on repeat all day long for that first week. At first, because she loved watching it. But within the first 24 hours, she started signing words like "baby," "time," "eat," "drink," "bed," and "cracker!" And less than a week after that, she started making sounds to go with the actions! Good ones too-- using the appropriate amount of syllables, using the words correctly and sometimes independent of the sign!
Since then, we've acquired 3 or 4 new Signing Time DVDs. The growth in her vocabulary, to us, has been astounding. Not so long ago, I wasn't sure how to help her simply tell me that she was hungry. Now, we're talking and/or signing about a wide range of zoo animals, emotions, food items, her bedtime routine, and how to make a pizza out of silly foods!
Since we began speech therapy and signing time, she's fallen in love with books. In fact, that was one of her first signs, and then words! I'm always ready to be done with reading time before she is. And it's about the only way to bribe her to do something-- to offer her a book. She loves it when Chris reads to her-- apparently he's a way better narrator than I am.
Her first independent request since acquiring these fabulous communication skills was for "ice cream." And she asks for it multiple times a day. Sometimes she'll even sign that she wants TWO ice creams-- one in each hand :) Thanks to my zoku, I don't have a problem granting her request most of the time.
I know signing may not be the answer for everyone, but it certainly has been for us. And we won't be so closed minded with our next child-- in fact, I plan to begin signing right from the get-go!
Watching Emma discover communication, both speech and sign, has been like watching a miracle unfold right in front of our eyes. I think it's easy to take communication for granted-- after all, we do it every day with everyone that we meet. It's easy! But to actually see somebody realize that they are able to communicate when they didn't think they could-- it's been a wonderful reminder that everything we have and are able to do is actually a gift from Heavenly Father. And that without Him, we can't do anything. But with Him, we can do everything!
My mom has been requesting that I keep her informed of what Emma is learning how to say/sign. So I'll try to keep a running list at the bottom of my sidebar to the right. That way, if you know you're running into Emma anytime soon, you can prepare a conversation topic or two ;)
Mom- it may take me a while to get all of them up, but I'll try. And I'll try to link up some of her favorite signing time videos if I can!