Signing often and repeating

Signing repetitively was mentioned briefly in an earlier section but this is the single most important key to teaching your baby to sign. It wouldn’t be uncommon to show a baby a sign up to 20-30 times a day at different times and in different contexts, to help the sign sink in. This might sound like a lot, but when you do the sign before, during and after an activity, it raises the repetition level quickly. You also need to find as many different ways to talk about the intended sign as possible and in as many different contexts. Doing it in various contexts teaches the real purpose of language. For example, the MORE sign means not only MORE food, but also MORE PLAY, MORE WATER, MORE DANCING, MORE MUSIC and so forth.

Above: MORE is a great early sign to teach because rewards can be given immediately and those rewards are worth working for! Once your baby catches on, he will be using it most at mealtimes, but don’t forget to teach MORE for playing games, songs, dancing, funny faces, etc. MORE everything! Note: the yellow bag is full of garlic!

Always use the spoken word in association with the sign. Remember we are moving babies toward communication, not just to sign. This is an important part of signing for hearing babies. You must always say the words with emphasis while doing the sign as well so that your baby knows which word is the one being signed. The word which is emphasized, your baby will realize, is the word being signed. They’ll discover that it’s the one that carries most of the sentence’s meaning. Repeating the sign and the word helps build new neural connections and reinforces ones that already exist. There will be a time when your baby recognizes the spoken word, but might not do the sign yet. This is part of their normal development since babies have a built in ability to pick up spoken language and sign language. However, active expression of thoughts requires a bit more work and skill and this comes later. The big leap therefore, is for your baby to use communication which originates from them. After your baby has mastered the sign, you’ll be able to ask him if he wants something verbally and he’ll be able to sign back in agreement if it’s so.


Above: The finger tips of both hands are brought together several times as if gathering several objects in the ASL sign for MORE.

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