Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Signing time - or a time for signs?

Gabe said his first word when he was ten months old (actually six months old if you go by when I first thought he was speaking). I was walking down the stairs of our Newport house carrying him and he pointed to our cat, Spot, and said "kitty!". After Zion was born I went back and read in my journal about him and realized that I had noted much earlier than ten months that it sounded like he was trying to say "kitty" all the time. I think I just couldn't believe it and didn't give him the credit until there was no other explanation. He pointed, he said the word clear as day, no more denying it. When he was a little older we taught him the signs for "more" and "please". Teaching him sign was supposed to help him communicate and make day to day life easier but when it turned out he was so verbal I simply didn't bother teaching him more. With a busy life and a son who spewed out new words with practically every breath it simply wasn't a priority.

Zion's first word was also "kitty" and she too made it clear that she was saying it by ten months old. She quickly followed that up with "doggy", "teddy", and - I swear "I did it!" Then she must have felt that those few were all she needed to get through life and took a hiatus. Yet my emotional girl would squeal with frustration when she couldn't communicate her needs. So a number of months ago we started on our signing journey. She was much younger than a year when we introduced her to the sign "more". We would sign it and ask her if she wanted "more" and she would grin hugely and nod yes, sweetly refusing to sign it back to us - for months! Stubborn girl!

It was after her first birthday that she finally used the sign for "more". We promptly moved on to "please". This quickly became a favorite. She discovered she could get many, many things by using the sign "please". Once she had those down pat I quickly moved on to more. While Rob was in Guam I added "book", "change" and "milk" to her repertoire. I have introduced many others that she is still getting the hang of, when she isn't sure she simply uses the sign for "book" for everything else.

Yesterday at breakfast she signed "more milk" (two signs!) after draining her sippy cup. I don't think I've ever jumped up to refill a milk cup so fast! What a difference from a few months ago when she would squeal with anger when she wanted more of something, now she is asking politely. When I sign "change" to her she'll run to her diaper supply basket, pull out the mat and lay on it. Another big difference from the girl who used to buck and scream when I layed her down for a change.

Learning her signs has helped give her verbal skills a jumpstart as well. Along with the signs for "more" and "please" we'll get "mo" and "eeeee" with a big grin. I think we're both excited about what she can learn next. Zion is still as opinionated as ever but you can see what a difference being able to communicate has made in her happiness, she's a different baby.

Gabe has taken an interest in learning signs as well. He loves the Signing Time videos that we check out from the library to watch and keeps reminding me of signs he's learned and is retaining a lot more than I expected. At the same time, he was just sitting next to me reading from the book "Happy Birthday Thomas". He's getting more brave with sounding out the letters and is surprising me with words that he can recognize without even trying. He's been able to recognize the word "Thomas" for ages but today he read "and" and "is" without hesitation. For those who don't know, Gabe is not yet 4 and other than teaching him his letters and their sounds I've made little to no effort in teaching him to read - he blows me away!

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