It was brilliant, my son made his first sign after…okay, okay it wasn’t. I actually used my fast track to signing strategy which I have outlined in a separate guide. I admit, I was impatient, I wanted my son to get started as fast as possible, so I figured out a way to have him sign faster than what is considered normal by most measures. [Right: A version of the ASL sign MORE by bringing hands together]
To get him to sign I focused on just one sign, the sign for MORE and coupled this with food. It was pretty easy in hindsight, but I never knew if it would work or not which made me even more motivated to try. I began by giving him a small handful of cereal which he enjoyed. I knew this would run dry fast enough and he would want more providing him with the motivation necessary to sign. Over the course of a few days I would guide his hands together and model the sign for MORE which is done by bringing the fingertips together. Each time I would model the sign, I would give him more cereal and each time I helped him sign by moving his hands together, I gave him more.
After a few days I started to reward any motion that he did to bring his hands closer on his own. I used a common behavioural shaping tool called “chaining” which says that small increments are rewarded toward a final desired behaviour. In other words, I didn’t hold out until he brought his hands together in a perfect sign, instead I rewarded him if his hands moved toward one another in any way, even if at first, they didn’t touch. Once he knew that this was cause for reward, I would hold back until his hands got even closer than the last time. Eventually, I required that his hands at least touch each other before giving him more cereal. When he forgot what to do, I would help him by lightly pushing his hands together, guiding him, modeling the sign myself or lightly tapping his hands to remind him that there was something that they needed to do. A funny thing happened as I guided him to sign, but at the time it was frustrating, in the moment at least. After guiding him to sign over several occasions he had associated me helping him as part of the process, so instead of just doing the sign himself, he would grab my hands and pull them together! In retrospect, this was very cute, and shows just how well babies grab hold of patterns in their world!
Above: “Touch Reminder Technique” demonstrated.
You might be more patient than me, in which case you can probably ignore “The Fast Track To Signing Program” ebook (also available on Amazon) and instead continue reading and develop your own techniques. By the end of this book you’ll have all the information you need to assemble your very own guide to signing, and implement it at your own pace and leisure.