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baby signing - honest opinions?

(29 Posts)
gretagrape Fri 06-Sep-13 14:58:36

I felt quite enthusiastic about the idea of teaching my son baby signing so we could communicate way before he could talk, but now I'm not so sure.

I've got 2 friends who have used it with their children - one is 2.11 and is only speaking around a dozen single words that aren't really understandable unless you spend a lot of time with her, and the other is 2.3 and doesn't really say anything at all, apart from mama, dada and deep (for sleep).

Could be a co-incidence but it makes me wonder if I want to start using it - maybe it could delay speech because the child can just sign and be understood? Does it make them lazy or think that this is the way to communicate so you don't need to move on to actually speaking?

Has anyone got any positive/negative experiences on its use?

DeWe Thu 12-Sep-13 10:37:59

When dd1 was a baby I had a friend who did it. At 18 months they were talking well AND had about 50+ signs. She used to learn a new word and ask for the sign as well. She used to sign along side talking. She stopped doing this about 2.6yo, but about 2 years later was out when she saw two (I assume) deaf people signing, and went up and joined in much to their amazement.

I did signing with dd2 and ds after seeing her. Dd2 was my best signer with a couple of dozen signs (I didn't go to classes) and was fully in sentences and had about 300 words at 18 months.
Ds was slower talking because he had glue ear, but was still a good talker. When he's really struggling to hear, he returns to signs now at age 6yo.

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 12-Sep-13 00:00:56

I loved it. From what I read it doesn't hinder speech development, in fact it helps it because it is helping them make connections about communication etc and then it's just a case of waiting for the vocal chords, muscles etc to catch up with what they want to say.

DS was talking in full sentences at just gone 2, so no I don't think it hindered him at all.

BTW you mentioned somebody "not encouraging speaking over signing", I don't think it's recommended to encourage either way, they will just use whatever works best for them, and by the time they start speaking a little, the signs just sort of peter out as they have no need for them any more. DS is nearly 5 and I doubt he would even remember any now. But they were really helpful when he did use them.

Also worth remembering it's not a race, and it doesn't make much of a difference whether they talk at 9 months or 3 years, by the time they are at primary school you can't tell the difference.

MrsOgg Wed 11-Sep-13 23:50:38

Well I'm loving it! My son is 15 months old and this month he has started signing back to me - he does 'where', 'dog', 'bird', 'no', and, randomly, 'snail' and 'flower'.

It is hilarious because he'll do something like throw a toy off the side of the bed, and then do the 'where' sign, while looking really quizzical, as if he really doesn't know where it is. I hid behind the curtains the other day and he spent about 10-15 minutes coming to point at me, then walking back so he couldn't see me and doing the 'where' sign, then coming back to point at me again. He was really enjoying himself and I fell over laughing.

It definitely helped him understand what I was saying too, as soon as I started using the signs for eat, drink, enough, bath, (and probably spoke more slowly and enunciated better as well) it was obvious he understood what was being said.

I definitely recommend the class. And my son is speaking pretty well for his age, he has 15 ish words already that I definitely recognise, and he has a pretty good go at more. He is very very chatty, so I don't think signing is negatively affecting his speaking skills.

partyondude Fri 06-Sep-13 22:41:17

We did a short makaton course at the children's centre and then sing and sign which is makaton based. It isn't true makaton and uses different signs for pain and uses one sign for nappy change rather than different signs for nappy and change (and makaton has different signs for cloth and disposable nappies which, quite frankly was one step too far for me. Had my child told me what material they wished their nappy to be made from I would have signed them up for mensa and potty trained them instantly)..

however it did slow my speech down and save dd from constant stream of consciousness complex sentences. I learned to focus on key words and phrases that I could sign. I also have a song for any occasion.

HorryIsUpduffed Fri 06-Sep-13 22:12:42

Signing funnies? Ok.

I got DS2, then about 15m, ready for the bath DH was running. He kept signing "nappy" and I kept saying "yes, I'm taking your nappy off now so you can have a bath". I put him down to toddle off to the bathroom with daddy, still signing "nappy nappy nappy".

I realised why as soon as I got out of his room on to the landing. He had crapped all over the carpet.


lade Fri 06-Sep-13 22:02:21

I signed with my DD and she was a prolific signer. I never attended classes, but we had our own system of signs that I used.

We started signing with her when she started waving, and before long she had a wide range of signs. At 13 / 14 months, she had over 100 signs and could put two signs together to make requests like 'flower book' etc. we also discovered through her signing that she was afraid of the dark, and that was why she had been waking at night. She also used to sign 'washing machine' when she wanted us to put the washing on, so she could sit in her bumbo and watch the washing go round! I do believe that we did avoid many tantrums (never had the terrible twos) because she was always able to communicate what she wanted.

It didn't hinder her language at all, by two she had a verbal vocab of over 500 words (I know, she was part of an academic study and they assessed her) and almost all of her first words were previously signs.

It certainly didn't hinder her at all, but she was always advanced in her language skills. Whether that was because of her signing, or whether the signing was irrelevant to her verbal development is impossible to know.

mawbroon Fri 06-Sep-13 22:01:09

I signed with both of mine. It worked really well for us. I found that in the beginning, the first words that they both said were words that they knew signs for. As they became able to say the words, they stopped the signing.

I just did it out of the Sing and Sign vocab book, I never bothered with classes.

Let me tell you a funny story about ds1. He was about 18 months.

We were having lunch outside in the garden and I said oh, it's really sunny, I'll put up the umbrella. DS1 started pointing at the umbrella and doing the sign for "music". I had no idea what he was doing, until it clicked.

I said, do you mean underneath my umbrella, ella, ella, (y'know, the Rhianna song). Well, he laughed so much that he almost fell out of his highchair, which made me think that I had guessed correctly. It was great!!

fififrog Fri 06-Sep-13 21:44:33

We did it from 5 months to 2 years. DD LOVED it (Sing&Sign). It was great fun. She started signing in earnest about the same time she started talking in earnest, about 13 months. It was really useful because at the start their speech isn't great even if they are saying words. She is a real chatterbox, talks and sings all the time, has an absolutely enormous vocabulary (always has really). I think signing helped her on her way with communicating, but mostly because we really enjoyed it. Try it and if you like it keep going, if you don't then stop - i don't think it will make any major difference to when they begin talking. PS she's 2.6 now I still sign thank you and please if I want to remind her to be polite smile

Bumpsadaisie Fri 06-Sep-13 16:23:21

My son has just turned 22 mths. We used (our own) signs with him when he was little (didn't go to a class or anything, just made up our own actions).

He's talking well for a child of his age (he will say "big car" "more cheese" "go sleep" "bye Mummy" etc). The signs have disappeared as he talks now. It just happened that way.

HorryIsUpduffed Fri 06-Sep-13 16:19:48

Both my sons signed at around eight months, but didn't speak for nearly a year afterwards. Bridging the communication gap with signing definitely reduced frustration on all sides.

I've heard it said that babies taught signing at an early age may speak later than they otherwise would have done, much like any child in a bilingual family, but that the overall communication at, say, age two or three or later is unaffected. Indeed, I'm forever being told how fluent they both are for their age, although whether that's innate or a result of the signing is unknowable.

LokiTheCynicalCat Fri 06-Sep-13 16:12:13

I do it with DS age 11mo. He doesn't sign back (but then he doesn't clap or wave either) but he understands the main ones we use - No, nappy change, food, drink, milk, cat, dirty, walk.

I think because at our classes the emphasis is on speaking slowly and clearly and using the word together with the sign, that it has really helped him learn the spoken word. I tend to use the same phrases over and over with the sign to reinforce the association. He doesn't sign but he's getting really good at understanding the point of language.

This morning he was really whingey and I asked him if he wanted a nappy change. He indicated yes (I was surprised because he hates being changed) and sure enough there was a poo. Then I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk, not really. Then I asked if he wanted a drink of water and he shouted his yes at me! (It's just HA in a certain tone of voice, means yes or I want!)

I don't know if the signing itself is all that useful, but it's made me really think about the way I communicate with my voice too. I just have to pretend he's a tiny deaf foreigner wink

StillSlightlyCrumpled Fri 06-Sep-13 16:06:47

My understanding of signing from the speech therapists that DS has seen over the years is that signing will not hinder speech development. As I said before though, should your child actually need the support that sign language can bring, they'll have to learn it all over again, as it is a different method used in baby signing.

AFishWithoutABicycle Fri 06-Sep-13 15:56:18

The research all says that it contributes to language development. It may be that children with language issues are more willing to sign due to finding oral language so difficult.
I did with my dd and although she understood a lot she never used a single sign!

Gintonic Fri 06-Sep-13 15:55:46

I haven't been to the classes but I've been signing at home with my DS since he was 4 or 5 months. He is now 14 months and has never once signed back. But I think the signing has helped him understand what I am saying, and his first word was one of the words I sign a lot.

I think there is a lot of hype about signing but I don't see what harm it can do so long as you talk lots too.

laeiou Fri 06-Sep-13 15:50:20

Learning the sign for pain / sore was really useful. We don't sign any more except the "I love you" one. Signing seemed to naturally disappear as he became more verbal. I hadn't thought about that till now.

laeiou Fri 06-Sep-13 15:47:10

I didn't go to classes but used some bsl signs with my baby. He speaks well e.g. 3 word sentences before 2, any-number-of-word sentences at 2y3m.

I used the itv website on baby signing which had videos showing the signs for words like "bath", "more" etc. Unfortunately the site seems to have disappeared but others may give similar content. I found it useful in the same way that standard gestures like waving while saying "hello" are useful. I always spoke the word while signing it.

gretagrape Fri 06-Sep-13 15:45:28

happy that's a good idea, I like the sound of that. Thanks.

happydutchmummy Fri 06-Sep-13 15:35:08

I did a free 8 week baby signing course at my children's centre when dd was around 10 months. To be honest I mainly went for the social aspect (plus it was free!).

Some of the signs were REALLY useful, I think the main ones we used often were change nappy, food, drink, milk, sleep, where, what, help, pain and home.

This seemed to really help her communicate better with me and let me know when she wanted a drink, or if she wanted to go home, or once she signed that she had pain in her ear which was great as I took her to the gp and she did have the start of an ear infection which was treated with antibiotics straight away!

I never really bothered with all the other signs that just didn't seem essential for her to know (like why would she need to sign horse, or sheep, or star, flower, etc).

So my advice would be to go, but to only use the ones that will make your life easier and ignore the rest. My dd is now 3 and has excellent speech and vocabulary (so I don't think signing damaged her in any way!!!)

gretagrape Fri 06-Sep-13 15:28:55

valiumredhead you are right about the endless ways we already communicate and your first message strikes a chord with both my friends' children. It was before I had my son that I'd looked into it, not to avoid the tantrums (can't imagine anything will stop those!) but just thought it would be fun for him to 'speak' to me in another way.

I'm definitely having second thoughts though. The weird thing is neither of my friends seem particularly bothered about their children not really being able to speak to others, in one of the cases she never really encourages speaking OVER signing.

I guess it's one of those things that could be fun (mind you, katopotato your anecdote is hilariously off-putting!) but you have to be careful it's not at the expense of other forms of communication.

StillSlightlyCrumpled Fri 06-Sep-13 15:21:04

I don't think it can delay speech as I think the same part of the brain is used for all communication, signing & speech.
My issue with it is that should your child have an actual speech delay then the signing used in pre school & school settings is makaton. That is not the signing taught at baby signing.

DS2 has a speech impairment (he's 9) & signs lots. When DS3 was born I signed up to baby signing classes to help him communicate with DS2. I quickly realised whilst great fun, that's all it was really. If you can find classes that use makaton then go for it!

pmgkt Fri 06-Sep-13 15:15:16

Waste of time from the point of view of signing but nice social aspect.

ShowMeTheCoffee Fri 06-Sep-13 15:11:15

The classes round here offer a free taster class so maybe you could try it for yourself?

I did the classes with both of mine from age 9 months to 2 years, they both loved them. They both talked early and well. This may/may not have anything to do with the signing classes, but I don't agree that the classes would have a harmful effect.

I think being able to communicate so early (through signing initially) helps to reduce a toddler's feelings of frustration and helps them to get their needs met faster, so fewer tantrums!

valiumredhead Fri 06-Sep-13 15:10:36

Mr tumble is great grin

partyondude Fri 06-Sep-13 15:09:40

We did it with dd from 8mo. She never signed much but talked before she was 12mo. We started signing much later with ds when it became apparent that he wasn't going to be an Early talker. At 21 months he started talking but had been communicating a bit with signs to make himself understood. His speech is still hard to understand so its useful that he can back some words up with signs.

valiumredhead Fri 06-Sep-13 15:09:22

OP think of all the ways you can communicate already with your child, facial expressions, pointing etc, repeating words etc. you already do all that.

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