My son would sign SQUIRREL and make an appropriate squirrel sound (think a mouth smack), to which my wife would nod and say “yes, SQUIRREL’s do climb trees.” He would then say “Momma” to which she would say “No, Momma doesn’t climb trees she’s too SCARED.” Then my son would look to me, point, and say “Dadda?” and my wife would reply “Yes, Dadda can climb trees, he’s STRONG.” Then he’d sign CAT and pat his leg for DOG and my wife would reply that CAT’s can climb trees, but DOG’s can’t. He’d do a dog sound along with his sign. Next he’d ask if geese climb trees (using the BIRD sign) coupled with a “g” sound. My wife would then say “Nope, geese don’t climb trees they walk like this (using her hands on the floor).” Finally, my son asked if ducks climb trees (BIRD sign with a “d” sound) or crows climb trees (BIRD sign with a “c” sound). My wife would reply that ducks don’t but that crows do showing him how their toes curl while using her fingers.
Because my son had signs, he was able to combine his limited vocal vocabulary with his signs. He was able to build his vocabulary and distinguish between several different birds and animals – even when the signs were identical. By adding in the first letter of the bird he wanted to talk about, he was able to make it clear to us what he meant. So just by bending the rules a little bit, he adapted ASL to meet his needs and communicate an entire topic.
I found this type of conversation to be truly amazing and it’s all owed to baby sign language.