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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?

KatoPotato Fri 06-Sep-13 15:02:29

It was my experience that the older children who did well at Tiny Talk did have delayed speech.

I joined for the social aspect (and biscuits) but found the competitive atmosphere uncomfortable with many involuntary hand jerks being shouted (yes, shouted) out as 'CAT! CAT! Anaglypta signed CAT!'

I think she was rubbing her eyes...

valiumredhead Fri 06-Sep-13 15:06:42

I worked got a family who used out religiously and the child was encouraged to sign rather than speak. She was SO silent it was quite eerie.

I did courses in BSL and while I think it's fantastic to be able to communicate I roll my eyes when I hear people who want babies to sign 'to avoid tantrums and frustration'

dizzy77 Fri 06-Sep-13 15:08:47

I did classes for several months with ds1 before he was 1. He's now 2.3 and has lots of words which he's now starting to string together, though he doesn't speak in sentences like some of his peers. He does use the odd sign (sleep, milk, mouse) though I find it most helpful for communicating over his head to DH!

I think to really get the best of it I should have applied myself much more consistently to signing in the home. Tbh he's picking up a lot now from Mr Tumble so it's possible it was just too early - maybe at say 18 months he'd have been more cognitively ready (I was back at work by then), but every baby is different and some of my friends' children were talking quite fluently before they were two. .

Positively though, I really enjoyed the classes as unlike many baby/toddler groups I could apply my brain and learn something! I even did a day long course on how the signing system works because I can't resist a training course.

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.

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 15:10:36

Mr tumble is great grin

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!

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

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

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!

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.

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 15:45:28

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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!!

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.

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.


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