Deaf toddler

Ronald Kennedy

Published Date: May 27, 2021

What Are Baby Signs?

Having a sick child is an upsetting and worrisome experience for all parents. Because very young children can’t talk, parents often have to guessing what’s wrong. Is the baby teething? Does he or she has an earache? Is she cold or wet or simply lonely? How to talk with your baby is a skill you must master.

I recall one of my clients and baby Sophia. Long before she could say the word ‘fever’, she was able to tell her mother exactly what she was feeling and what she needed. The baby signs which Sophia and hundreds of thousands of other babies around the world are using are based on both cutting-edge child ‘development research’ and old – fashioned common sense about how babies communicate.

What are baby signs?All babies learn to wave a hand for bye-bye, shake their heads back and forth for ‘no’, and nod them up and down for ‘yes.’ These gestures are examples of Baby Signs – simple, easy-to-remember signs that babies can use to talk about things in their world that they don’t have words for yet.

In their great desire to communicate, babies often spontaneously figure out ways to “talk,” using simple signs that resemble what they are interested in, such as “painting” for dog, “sniffing” for flowers, and “flapping arms”for bird. This is why we call Baby Signs a “natural sign language.”

Unfortunately most parents never appreciate their baby’s ability to learn additional signs beyond bye-bye, yes, and no that can help them communicate in ways that otherwise would be impossible until they can speak.

Talking is so easy for adults that we forget how difficult it was to learn. When a baby finally produces a true word, she is demonstrating an impressive degree of mastery over all the large and small body parts necessary to make the particular sounds involved.

There’s the tongue to place, the lips to form, the vocal chords to control, the breathing to regulate, and much more. The reason for “baby talk” – those difficult-to-decipher words, such as “wawa” for water – is that babies are physically unable to string together necessary sounds in the words, but are doing their best to practice.

It takes time, often until they are three years old, before they have mastered their vocal chords enough to make them do exactly what they want them to do.

 

Baby Signs And American Sign Language

We’ve been asked by many of our clients how regular Baby Signs relate to American Sign Language (ASL), the official language of the deaf community. The simple answer is that the Baby Sign method incorporates the most useful, ‘baby friendly” signs from ASL and combines them with signs that babies and parents have created themselves and found particularly useful.

We also knew that young babies, with their limited motor coordination, are not able to master many of the complex hand shapes of ASL.

Because for hearing babies using sign language is simply language is simply a temporary bridge to speech, our goal has always been to do what is easiest for babies and their parents.

Our focus has not been to teach hearing babies a second language but to provide them with the signs that they can use most easily to express their needs, thoughts and feelings until they have words. Research has shown that signs are easiest for babies – and for parents – when they involve simple gestures and when they resemble the things they stand for ( e.g. fingers to lips for eat, arms out straight like wings for airplane). Baby Signs, whether from ASL or not, have been selected based on what has worked best for babies and parents.

Benefits For Your Baby

Imagine how frustrating it would be if you were unable to talk and had no way to express your needs, fears, and thoughts about the world we live in. It’s no argument, parents know that a hearing disability is a terrible thing. You would feel locked in a prison of isolation, (Like it was during the pandemic outbreak.) Babies often feel this same way, which is why they so frequently throw tantrums and use whatever means they have – pointing and screaming – to try to convey what they are thinking and wanting.

More than a decade of research have consistently shown us that daily life with a proverbial baby test everyone’s patience. This is were Baby Signs comes in.

One Main Benefit : Makes Family Life Easier and Decreases Tears.

Baby Signs alleviate frustration and avoid the need for a baby to be totally dependent on pointing, crying, or an urgent “Uh! Uh! Uh!” to get a message across. In the story of Sophia, as I mentioned above, we’ve seen how using Baby Signs helped a proverbial baby tell her mother what she was experiencing and what she really needed.

Not only are children better able to communicate their needs, but parents also find that Baby Signs open a window into their child’s mind that profoundly enriches the experience of parenting. In the following story, Baby Signs helped turn one sleepless night into a sublime experience of sharing for a father long before his son had the vocal ability to speak.

A Father’s Experience

“Thirteen-month-old Bryce often had difficulty sleeping through the night. One morning just before dawn, he awoke and began to cry. When Bryce’s mom, Karen, heard him, she reached over and gave Bryce’s dad, Norm, a shake. “It’s your turn,” she whispered sleepily to Norm. After a few protests, Norm reluctantly crawled out of bed and went in to comfort Bryce, typically not an easy job.

 

Realizing that racking Bryce was not going to work this time, Norm took Bryce out onto the front porch, sat down on the glider, and began to glide back & forth. Norm felt frustrated sitting on the porch at 5:30 in the morning when he should have been upstairs in his cozy bed.

 

Settling a bit, Bryce noticed the sun peeking up from the horizon. Still whimpering, he looked at his dad with tear-stained cheeks and flashed his fingers, making the Baby Sign for light. Norm’s heart melted and he hugged Bryce tightly. “That’s right, Bryce. This sun is coming up and giving us it’s light.” Norm still remembers this as one of his favorite moments with his son.

 

 

In Conclusion

Let’s consider right now, what young Sophia, Jennifer, and Bryce have in common. I each case a baby, even without words, was able to convey a message and enjoy the experience of being quickly, and accurately understood. Inter-changes such as these foster feelings of competence and trust and help avoid frustration.

The result is a warmer, more satisfying relationship between child and adult.”
Here’s something I know You’ll like. Look at “Toddler Talk: Techniques & Games – First Words Without Tears.

 

 

2 thoughts on “How To Talk With Your Baby – Before Your Baby Can Talk

  1. Thanks for these stories and for this very meaningful article on how to talk to a baby before he can talk. One way of communicating is also different ways of crying, which I found out after a few weeks.
    Every parent tries their best to communicate with their baby. I would be very happy to read this article when ours was quite small. Now, however, she was recently two years old and is already very eloquent. And this is a new wonderful period in the development of our child, which at times is very exhausting, but when it passes, we will be nostalgic and remember especially the beautiful moments.
    I wish you all the best
    Nina

    • Ronald Kennedy

      Hey Nina, remembering those beautiful moments is what it’s all about. Any way a parent can communicate with their child, hearing or non-hearing, is good regarding growth development along with family bonding. 

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