When our daughter, Grace, was born with congenital CMV, we knew there would be many hurdles we had to overcome regarding her changing health status. One of those hurdles is her hearing loss (profound loss in one ear and a mild loss in the other) which at present is being taken care of by two amazing little hearing aids. They’re stylin’ and super cute: Giraffe print with pink glitter ear molds. But it is a harsh reality that the loss could continue to be progressive as is often the case in children born with CMV. To give our daughter every possible tool to learn to express herself (called “total communication”) my husband and I have decided to learn and teach American Sign Language to our kids- Grace AND Lilly. It is our hope that her remaining hearing stays intact for the rest of her life, but if it does not, we will have given her the tools she needs to still be able to communicate with the people around her.
At first, I was totally overwhelmed with learning sign. I wanted to learn everything- the entire language- so that I could teach Grace adequately. Quickly I realized that there is a steep learning curve and I could cut myself some slack. We can, and are, learning sign at the same pace- teaching signs that are relevant to Grace right now, and progressing as her world gets bigger and bigger.
Our hearing therapist helps us learn the signs for Gracie’s expanding routine. Beginning with daily activities; feeding signs, bath signs, sleep signs, family signs, and progressing as she is able to do more things; food signs, playtime signs, object signs etc. We’re very lucky to have such a great therapist in our court. But I wanted to share some other resources we are using to teach sign (mostly to our 2 year old who loves books) so other families can learn too. Sign language is a great tool to teach children- even children without hearing impairment. Sign language can lessen frustration and anger, help improve awareness, and most of all give young children tools to communicate about the world around them. Soon Grace will be more aware of story time and we’ll be able to pick up lots of signs together as we read, talk, sign and play.
Lilly has had this book long before Grace was even conceived and it’s a very simple, nicely illustrated book that we’ve read probably five hundred times. It includes easy first signs like Mom, Dad, more, milk, bath, dog, cat, and boo boo. It feels like a story which is my favorite part. It’s a great place to start if you haven’t started teaching any signs.
Signing Time is a great resource with many volumes. There is also a great Signing Time iPhone app that I really like, and many songs (available on youtube and NickJr.) that are fun to learn for older toddlers. The instructor wears colored bandaids on her fingers to help emphasize hand movements/finger placement etc. She’s very pleasant to listen to (as far as kid songs go) and we already know quite a few of her songs. In a House, In a Home is our favorite.
Similar to the first book mentioned, A Day With Mom is another good story book for kids that gives clear hand sign explanation on opposite pages. What child doesn’t like a day with Mom? 😉
And perhaps my favorite, this series by Annie Kubler. I think the best way to learn any information is through song (I bet you can’t remember all the presidents of the United States, the anatomy of the human body or all the details of Geometry- but try and fathom how many song lyrics you know by heart). These are PERFECT for teaching sign and so easy to have fun with. We’ve only read these at the library but are hoping for the full set for Christmas (hint hint Santa Clause).
And last but not least, I have to mention these two Baby Einstein DVD’s. If you allow your tots to watch TV (which we do) these are great as well.
Sign is unlike many other learning concepts in the fact that you truly must SEE the actions performed. Books will only get you so far- at some point you do actually have to see hands moving to fully understand gesture and movement. I can’t say that a 6 month old will benefit greatly from these DVD’s but at 2.5 years old, Lilly certainly can and we all know there is no better learning instrument than watching and copying an older sibling.
I will continue to add resources to this list- books, DVD’s, our favorite websites etc. But in the meantime, why don’t you try a few signs with your little ones? See how it goes!