In college I was told I had to take two years of a foreign language. I had a terrible Spanish teacher in HS and she kind of ruined my love for learning another language so I was thrilled when I found out my college offered ASL. It was different and I needed a change. I grew up with a girl who was deaf and I always thought it was so intriguing that her family and friends could communicate with their hands and through facial expressions. It’s a beautiful language and culture. We were right next to the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind and we were able to work with kids of all ages from that school. They taught me so much and it was a blessing to learn from them. They can literally do everything we can do, they just have a different way of communicating.
After I finished school I never thought I would be able to use ASL again but I was wrong. I was able to give a deaf man directions in NYC on my way to visit my husband at school, I had the pleasure of signing for two deaf patients at our pediatric dentist office, I learned songs to sign in church, and I was able to teach my baby sign language!
I think the hardest part about having a new baby is the fact that they can’t talk to you and this is why they cry to communicate. Over time you learn to decipher what they mean because every cry sounds a little bit different. I’ll be honest though, I don’t like crying. I don’t think any mom LIKES crying so I told myself I was going to try everything possible to be able to communicate with Luke before he got to that extreme. I didn’t want Luke to have to cry in order for me to get him something he needed.
When Luke was 6 weeks old, I started signing to him. I started by finger spelling his name, L-U-K-E, at least 20 times a day. The
goal was just to get him to start looking at my hands and face while I spoke to him. I would also sign the alphabet to him a few times while we were cuddling on the couch or if I was rocking him to sleep. Luke still can’t sign his name or the alphabet but the goal was just to get him to focus on my hands.
He started taking a bottle regularly around two months. Every time myself or Clay would hand him his bottle we would verbally say “milk” one time and followed by the sign for milk (open and close your hand as if you were milking a cow) and then give it to him. EVERY time he had a bottle, BOTH of us did this. Now he was learning to associate the sign “milk” with the action of drinking milk.
Around 6 months he signed milk back to us for the first time. We were very excited. Most articles I read said not to even bother starting with them until 6 months and you could expect them to sign back around 9 months to a year. I knew in the deaf community that babies had been signed to from birth because that is their ONLY form of communication if they are completely deaf. They do not have vocal cues at all. I thought if deaf babies can sign at 6 months or sooner then hearing babies were capable also. It comes down to consistency. As long as you work on it with your child every day, they will pick up the signs.
Luke is now 16 months and not only is he talking, he can sign: milk, more, water, eat, please, thank you, tired, yummy, finished, and dog. He can give high fives, blow kisses and nods yes and no. We have much more to learn and it has been relatively easy to teach him, it’s just a matter of remembering to do it! I’m looking forward to the first day Lily signs back to me but until then I will keep signing to her.
It’s been a blessing to be able to communicate with Luke and I hope things will be just as easy with Lily. It has, in my opinion, significantly cut down on tantrums and tears and helped my husband and I develop a more intimate relationship with our son.
We haven’t used any magic books or TV shows. Just Google some simple signs, learn them, and be consistent! Hard work pays off and the first time they sign back to you makes it all worth it.
Here are some pictures of Luke signing “Please”
(He wants some of those banana pancakes!)