Although we do not advocate for home signs at Definitive Baby Sign (i.e., signs made up by someone in your home that are different from a recognized sign language), even our family has adopted some. Sometimes we just aren’t quick enough for our little guy in finding the ASL sign!
When your baby creates his own sign for something it’s a good indication that he fully understands how signs work. It’s really neat to see these signs because your baby has created them based on some connection he’s made. Whether or not you choose to acknowledge these made up signs is up to you. As I said, we don’t promote the use of home signs, but we have allowed our son to continue using a few.
BROCCOLI is fingerspelled, but our son brings a loose fist to his nose, similar to the sign for GARLIC. He made up a sign for GROSS too by pulling his hand with his fingers bent in a claw away from his nose. That one really intrigues me because it seems like a logical sign – pulling something forcefully away from your face. His sign for HOLE actually looks similar to the ASL sign even though he created it before we had a chance to show him the real sign. He touches the back of one hand with the index finger of the other instead of drawing a circle with his finger over his hand. The home sign he uses most frequently is DESSERT. We started using this word without the sign and he beat us to the punch by creating his own. Instead of making the D sign with both hands and tapping them together, he runs his hand under his chin, similar to how he runs it along his chin for CEREAL.
For my last example, our son used to do a sign we called his “crazy sign.” He would only do it while in his high chair and he would bring his arm up and down while twisting it. We told him for days that we didn’t understand what he was trying to tell us, but he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) explain any further than repeating the sign. In the end we decided that it didn’t mean anything, but was just a new creation of our son’s that was getting some attention. He eventually stopped doing it.