Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adventures in ASL

When Declan was a few weeks old, Brian and I attended a free Intro to Sign Language for Babies class offered by our midwifery.  I was interested in teaching our baby sign language after I'd seen just how beneficial it was in allowing my special-needs nephew communicate.  My nephew has Downs Syndrome, but excelled at learning many ASL signs to indicate his wants and needs as a pre-verbal little one.

At the class, Brian and I learned a few colors, some baby basics, and even a couple of songs.  I left the class committed to the idea of signing to Declan, but sad that we could not justify the expense to enroll in a full session of classes.

My sister-in-law had used videos to teach my nephew, so I started checking out video options.  Within a few days of my search, I received a coupon for 50% a set of signing videos--it seemed like kismet!  I greedily ordered the set and upon arrival I opened it up, sat down with the baby, and we began to watch.

My smile soon faded.

The first few signs on the video were fine, but then we encountered one that I'd learned in the basics class differently.  I was puzzled.  So I looked up the ASL sign for the word.  Sure enough, the sign that I had learned in class was correct, so the one in the video had to be incorrect.  Oh, dear.

Now, I realize that when using signs and symbols to replace words, as long as there is consistency it does not really matter if the signs and symbols are derived from actual language.  As long as Declan and I both knew that a particular sign stood for a particular concept, we'd be able to communicate.  However, I LIKED the idea of potentially learning another language (ASL) and it appeared that the signing videos we purchased were not using only ASL signs, but also some arbitrary ones.  I was very disappointed.  (Related: anyone want a gently used, extremely cheap set of non-ASL baby signs DVDs?)

He's trying to sign "more," even though his hand is full
Researching videos again, I learned that the highly-rated Signing Time videos use actual ASL signs. But then I was faced with deciding whether to get their Baby Signing Time videos or their Signing Time videos.  Thanks to their instant-gratification ordering ability, I downloaded a Baby Signing Time video.  Declan LOVED it.

In fact, he still loves it.  And we've since purchased three more.  He watches them everyday and dances around to his favorite songs (Pets I Love, Here We Go are particular favorites).

Declan's current repertoire of ASL is still the same.  He signs for more food, he signs "hat," "dog," "bird."  He has tried to sign "plane," and "water," with some success.  But we're keeping at it and hoping to continue even after he begins talking.  Perhaps ASL can help him, and us, to learn even more languages.

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