“Cake - please”: My story of using talking signs (Thing #39) to communicate with my son
My name is Chloe, and last year me and my wife welcomed our beautiful son Avery into the world. I became a 50 Things Enthusiast after the birth of my son as I was so passionate about sharing our love of the low cost/no cost experiences to other families.
Please follow my 50 Things adventures on Twitter at @StorrChloe.
Using sign alongside speech
I have been using the 50 Things to Do Before You’re Five app ever since my son Avery was born last year. I first heard about the scheme through the work I do within Early Years. Using #TalkingSigns was something that I knew I wanted to try before Avery was born. Through my job supporting children’s language skills, I learned that signing helps children become confident communicators, and also helps to boost their speech. Once Avery was born, I signed us up for a local ‘Sing and Sign’ class, where I got the chance to socialise with other new mums and learn some signs. ‘Something Special’ on CBeebies also has Mr Tumble, who shows you how to sign (It also gives you a chance for a well-deserved mum break whilst your child watches it!). I use a mixture of Makaton, which is a sign and symbol language that is used alongside speech, and signs from my Sing and Sign classes where some signs are different. Using sign alongside speech helps children to understand the spoken word - and will support them to use that word when they start to speak.
From frustration to understanding
My Sing and Sign teacher gave us advice to focus on one or two signs rather than lots to begin with and to try to be consistent. I chose ‘milk’ as my first sign to try out and would do it before every feed. After a few months I became disheartened as Avery wasn’t making any attempts to copy me - but I knew the sign was still helping him to understand that milk was coming so I kept on using it (please note that I did not use the sign every time, an impossible task when crippled with sleep deprivation and baby brain but I used it when I remembered!). At 8 months, Avery used his first sign for ‘milk’ when I was feeding - I remember feeling so proud. It reminded me how much we underestimate the capabilities of babies. How amazing was it that I helped unlock a form of communication for him that otherwise he would never have been aware of?
Avery is now 14 months old and uses over 20 signs. Pictured above, you can see him signing 'cake-please' on his birthday. Most recently, he has started to use the sign for ‘help’ when he wants support to do something - for example; when he needs help to climb up the steps of the slide at the park, or when he is struggling to put a shape in his shape sorter. Imagine how much frustration I have been able to reduce by giving him the sign to be able to tell me what he wants/needs. I have got other family members on board and the nursery he goes to is using sign with him too. As his mum it makes me so happy that when he is the care of others he can still make himself understood.
My tip to parents: don’t be afraid to use talking signs!
My advice to new parents would be to 100% give #TalkingSigns a go, as every child has the potential to communicate and you can give them the tools to do this before they even start to use words. Some of my top tips would be:
Start by using one or two signs consistently. Don’t over complicate things as being a new parent is hard enough as it is!
Remember that your child’s sign may not look exactly like the one you use as their hand eye coordination may not be fully developed yet.
Always praise attempts at sign - and if you don’t fully understand, still support your child in showing you what they want.
Remember: don’t give up! I have spoken to other mums whose children didn’t start to sign until much later, or even didn’t sign at all, but they felt it helped them to talk sooner than they otherwise would have.
Chloe Storr is a 50 Things Enthusiast and a mum . Her favourite 50 Things activities are #34WoodlandWandering and #27LittlePeopleParkKeeper, as a new mum she tried to make sure she got out a few times a week to visit a local park or woods to break up the day, get some fresh air and connect with nature.