I talk more about this in the course, but what you decide to teach, be it homesigns (made-up signs), or ASL will depend on your preferences, goals and needs. For us, it was a no-brainer, we wanted to teach our son signs that others could understand and reference if need be. Had we taught homesigns, others might not know what he was saying. ASL is a universal language and so anyone with an ASL dictionary can figure out what our baby is saying. A homesign is any sign you make up on your own. While these can be fun to create and remain a secret language, they’ll give you grief if you leave your baby with a caregiver who isn’t privy to the signs meaning. While you might not empathize with your caregiver, I’m sure your baby would like to be heard!
Homesigns can also present problems for you too. In most cases, your baby is going to remember and adopt a sign once they’ve used it a few times. However, with our busy schedules, we often let slip these little things. After a few days your baby might do a sign, perhaps a bit differently than the homesign done previously and for the life of you, you can’t remember what it means! What a sour experience for your baby! Yeah, they’ll get over it, but it teaches them a bad lesson about language and about signing at large. Words should be consistent and immutable and therefore carry meaning. This is why adopting ASL is so much better for you and your child. You have a ready dictionary to reference should you forget a sign and you can work toward refining them to look more proper.
The take-away message is pretty clear. I highly recommend signing with ASL. That’s not to say that you can’t add a homesign in here and there, just limit them to perhaps words for things that don’t have a decent ASL sign for. Perhaps the name for a doll or blanket or something else personal. Whatever homesigns you do you, take the time to record them. A handy video camera can serve that purpose well – short of that just jot down some notes for a reference if you think you might forget.