Learning Sign Language with a Baby or Toddler
We started learning sign language as soon as we found out about Harry’s hearing loss.
Even though Harry has a cochlear implant and can hear our voices, we wanted him to know the basics of sign language for the future. Not only to better communicate with him, but also to be a part of the deaf community. He is still a deaf person after all, and he may very well have deaf friends who only use sign language to communicate.
Not only is sign language useful for children with hearing loss, but its also great for hearing children to learn as well. Even when they are very young, a baby’s motor skills and ability to make hand gestures are far more developed than their ability to speak, which makes it really very easy for them to learn the basics of sign language.
You will be so shocked at how fast you can teach your baby sign language. They will start to copy different hand gestures, eventually realizing they can use their hands to tell you what they need! Imagine if your baby could tell you what they want via signing instead of screaming and wailing!
With help from our Teacher of the Deaf, Harry he had a whole range of signs he was using to communicate with us by the time he was around 9 months old.
When signing, we always make sure that we say the words so he can see our mouths as well as the hand gesture, as we want him to pick up the vocabulary at the same time. We have found it so fun to learn and so much easier than we had first thought.
A lot of the signs are quite obvious, but some of them are a little bit random! Now that Harry has his cochlear implants, signing really helps him to understand certain words. Usually he will sign the word first for a while and and then attempts to start saying it, so using sign definitely hasn’t hindered his speech.
We also find sign language handy for times when Harry can’t wear his cochlear implant processors, such as during bath time or bed time, or when his batteries run out. I think it helps to make it a less stressful experience during that “quiet time.”
If you want to teach your baby sign language, you don’t necessarily need to go to a professional class to learn the basics. There are so many resources on the internet, such as YouTube, books and a lot if libraries and community centers have “Sing and Sign” sessions. But if you want to take it further, there are actual qualifications you can take, which I think we will look into for the future.
Harry’s Favorite Signs:
Do you use sign language with your baby?