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makaton - at what age did your dc start signing? and did the signs look like the signs?!

(8 Posts)
hazeyjane Mon 08-Oct-12 21:42:17

We have been signing with ds since he was about 10 months old. We attend a sn nursery twice a week, where signing is used all the time. He has no words, and at the moment he only signs very occasionally, and when he does, it is when he is prompted to do so. I just wondered at what age your dc started to sign without any prompting, and more frequently?

Also when he does sign, it often nears little resemblance to the actual sign - so it might be touching 2 fingers together for biscuit, or flapping his hands for yes. What should I be doing when ds's signs bear little resemblance to the actual signs? (I would ask his SALT, but we haven't seen her for months!)


Dev9aug Mon 08-Oct-12 23:02:13

We have had no success with signs for ds1 at all, but to be honest our heart was never in it as we wanted him to speak, but I will pass on the advice we were given.

You need to create opportunities for him to ask for stuff. So keep control of the things he wants so he has to ask for them in order for him to practice signing.

With regards to practice, for eg when he wants a biscuit, keep the biscuit in his vision, get his attention do the sign yourself and then you get him to do the sign using your hands. It is called hand over hand prompt. Give him the biscuit and then model the sign yourself and say the word at the same time. Once you know that he has understood the sign and can do it, you can start to give him less and less prompt until he is no longer dependant on you prompting him.

messmonster Mon 08-Oct-12 23:51:08

What Dev9aug said.

And, to create even more opportunities for signing, we broke up biscuits into small pieces (say quarters) and put them into a see-through container. Each time our DD wanted a piece she had to sign (or have a hand over hand prompt in the early days) to get the next piece. This increased the number of opportunities to sign for each "transaction" iyswim. We were careful not to frustrate her by withholding the biccie and found this worked really well - works for choc buttons, grapes, pieces of apple etc etc.

Another exercise we did was building a tower of bricks/cardboard boxes. Each time, DD wanted the next one put on, she had to sign "up" and then, before it was knocked down, she had to sign "go".

DD now has a good range of signs and is combining 2 signs e.g. "more drink" but, we now have the problem that because we've always accepted approximations of signs and sometimes her own version, the accuracy of her signing is causing problems with others recognising what she wants. So, whilst we were always taught to accept any attempt at a sign, we're now having to go back and try to get her accuracy better.


proudmum74 Tue 09-Oct-12 07:17:31

Hi, we started signing with DD at about the same age as you ( DD has Down's and glue ear).

On the recommendation of her SALT we really went for it from the start - sing & sign classes, all of us signing whenever we spoke - but to be honest we had no real response for the first 6 months or so. It was only when she saw Mr tumble for the first time that she seemed to make the link & started attempting to sign, now (2.5 yrs) she signs really well and continues to sign even though she's started to talk - she often says the word & signs at the same time.

In terms of whether the signs look like they're supposed to, at first they didn't really, but as she gets older her signs have become far more accurate.

Something else that really worked for us is 'singing hands' nursery rhymes DVD made in association with Makaton. My DD absolutely loves it & she signs along with them.


hazeyjane Tue 09-Oct-12 08:09:08

thankyou so much.

I do the hand over hand thing, as that is how he has learnt best to play with toys, scribble with a crayon etc. It just seems to have been a long time doing this and still the only signs he does spontaneously is birds - when he hears them tweeting and yes occasionally.

The breaking up biscuits thing sounds like a good idea, as does the bricks.

We are supposed to be starting to use picture cards as well, so sign, say word, show picture - so bloody much to remember!

We watch Mr Tumble, with our dds - so they can learn the signs as well (they are better than us tbh!), we have one nursery rhymes dvd, but I will get that one too - thankyou for the recommendation.

Did your dcs make any sounds when they signed? Ds is silent or screeching a lot of the time, but he makes no sound at all if we are trying to sign. I can't imagine him ever speaking, but he has good understanding, and for a boy who doesn't speak or sign he seems to get his point across!

messmonster Tue 09-Oct-12 13:57:31

Hi Hazey

My DD has only a handful of words but she too is very well able to communicate what she wants by a combination of signing, gesture and vocalisation (could also be called screeching/crying/shouting grin).

She was very slow to start signing - we started at about 18 months and it took probably a year plus before we consistently had "more" and "all gone". We then built up from there (and her ability to learn new signs got quicker and quicker).

We really just focused on "requesting" signs to start with - so as Dev said up thread, identifying the things she really wanted and then keeping them out of reach so that she had to ask each time she wanted something. So, typically, this was things to eat or to play with or "Mummy" or "Daddy". Because she was motivated by those items, she learnt pretty quickly what she had to do to get them!

What worked for us was tackling 2 or 3 signs at a time and focusing on those until they were mastered and then adding others. By mastered I mean an approximation of the sign done proactively. My DD's fine motor skills limit the accuracy of her signing too which is why we've always accepted approximations.

We're now at the stage where she's starting to use signs to label things as well as to request things she wants e.g. we show her a picture and say "what is it" and she answers with the sign.

I was told that signing uses the same part of the brain as speaking and so that is why our consultant was keen that we focus on it. That said, she still has no words sad

As for showing the picture at the same time, I don't feel qualified to comment on that. All I will say is that we dropped using PECs in favour of focusing on sign and in hindsight that may have been a mistake. Now, we're at the stage where she doesn't have the manual dexterity to differentiate lots of different signs and her signing vocabulary isn't wide enough for the breadth of what she wants to communicate - so we're back to introducing PECs in conjunction with sign as a prelude to getting some kind of talker device.

HTH a little and doesn't add to your confusion smile

p.s. ref your other thread my DD has the mosaic form of a v rare chromosome disorder (no name). We were told this should mean that the effect of the chromosome abnormality is somewhat diluted but how you can ever measure that I don't know. Good luck with getting your diagnosis. x

DaveMccave Tue 09-Oct-12 18:45:25

I work at a SN nursery, and have done several Makaton courses. It all depends on the individual child and their social and communication difficulty of course, but the majority of children don't use more than a few signs until at least 3 or 4. Also, most children will make up their own version of signs, or use certain signs to mean several things, or different things than they are meant to. This is all communication, and all welcomed, there really is no pressure for them to sign them exactly as the makaton books. Each centre often adapts certain signs too-for example dismissing certain makaton signs for something from another sign language programme or making up their own. It's about getting them to communicate rather than perfect them. Good luck.

hanbee Tue 09-Oct-12 21:15:09

Hi Hazey

Probably have told you all this before: I signed with DS1 from around 10 months old, he didn't sign back at all until he was 2.5! Now at 4 (tomorrow) he has over 50 signs and 6 words. Interestingly he drops the signs as the words take over.

His signs are his own version but he's just started a SN nursery and they can work out what he's signing. He also joins two signs together now and this afternoon joined two signs to a word! He uses picture choices too but signing his language of choice, if he doesn't know a sign he makes his own up!

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