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Signing and Down's Syndrome - help!

(18 Posts)
RingEir Sat 24-Nov-12 17:15:56

I am really hoping someone can help me with this. I am the mother of a son with DS (16 months old) and I am interested in teaching him to sign. Teaching kids with DS to sign seems to be par for the course in the UK and US and my native Ireland but here in Spain it is not the norm, and the speech therapist in our early intervention programme does not support it. She is an excellent therapist in other ways, but can be a bit resistant to innovative methods and believes signing makes children lazy about learning to speak. Killian is doing very well in many ways, but I would love him to be able to communicate better and from everything I have read about signing it seems like a wonderful aid for kids in his situation.

The bottom line is that it looks like if I want K to learn to sign I will have to teach him myself, with no support. Things are a bit more complicated in that we are raising ds to be bilingual, a course our speech therapist accepts but is not entirely supportive of either. I feel that signing will only help in this regard, however I haven't a clue about which method I should use, or even which sign language I should teach him. It will have to be something I can get on CDs/books because I cannot attend any classes or courses. I have just been looking at 'Signing Time', an American set of CDs which seems good, but, like I say, I really haven't a clue. Any advice please?
Thanks so much.

devientenigma Sat 24-Nov-12 17:24:27

Hi Ring my son is 11 and also down syndrome. They tend to plump for makaton signing. There is a makaton website where you can buy pocket books showing you how to do the signs. HTH x

devientenigma Sat 24-Nov-12 17:26:57

makaton website here

start with this book 1st

RingEir Sat 24-Nov-12 17:36:18

Thanks Devient - I'll check it out. I have heard of Makaton, but it seems to be only used in the UK.

2old2beamum Sat 24-Nov-12 17:49:36

Must admit having adopted 3 with Down Syndrome have never used sign language. DD's did well and have good spoken language, however our DS became severely deaf at 7 and I now wish we had taught him signing, we now use our own "body language" which with his limited speech most people understand good luck

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Sat 24-Nov-12 17:55:07

If signing is only going to be used at home you can use whatever language you want. Do schools in Spain use signing to support communication? Makaton or Singalong seem to be in very common usage in special schools in the UK. If you want signing to be used at school you may want to investigate what is common practice.

At least with signing, the sign for biscuit or drink will be the same whether you are speaking in English or Spanish. In Makaton, only key words are signed, so you speak the whole sentence, albeit using very simple language and sign the key word. So you say 'Do you want a biscuit?' and you may sign just 'biscuit,' or 'want biscuit' as you say it in English or Spanish.

RingEir Sat 24-Nov-12 18:32:52

I don't think it is realistic here to expect teachers etc to use signs, but it would be good to choose an intuitive system rather than an abstract one so that people might be able to understand him even if they are not familiar with signs. I suppose some teachers might be willing to cooperate but it is not the norm here as far as I know.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Sat 24-Nov-12 18:44:57

Shame, oh well, many of the nouns in Makaton (which is based on simplified BSL) look quite intuitive. Eg apple is holding an 'apple' between fingers and thumb towards mouth and biting. Biscuit is tapping your elbow with your other hand, from tapping the weevils out of a ship's biscuit, I think! Not quite so intuitive. grin

devientenigma Sat 24-Nov-12 19:43:06

Ring I have a MNetter on FB who has an older child (about 5) with DS also living in Spain, I'll give her a nod this way.

signandsmile Sat 24-Nov-12 19:46:47

Hi, good luck with the signing, grin as the knowledgeable MNetters above have said it is usually Makaton that is used with people with Learning Disabilities,

we used sign with our ds (ASD and LD) and he had got to hundreds of signs and then at 4.5 started to speak, now chats away recognisably (for the most part).

BTW There is about 20 years of good professional evidence that learning to sign does not stop or slow speech.. so sorry to hear your SALT is so out of date of a different opinion... smile wink

RingEir Sat 24-Nov-12 19:59:38

ok, thanks very much. Love the weevils etymologysmile

FnD Sat 24-Nov-12 20:16:15

Hello - havent posted on here in years!! (hello Dev!). I think signing is a great way to encourage speech. My son is now 4 and is starting to sign well along with emerging speech. Makaton is what we use and Mr Tumble has been instrumental in helping him learn signs - if you can get it through the Cbeebies website or order some videos to watch with him and learn that might help. One he starts school - if they are any good they will use the signs he uses in order to communicate with him as his speech develops.

mariammma Sat 24-Nov-12 23:42:53

These guys might know something about signing with little ones: Baby signing in Bilbao. Bilingual nursery school in Madrid. An article to perhaps show your SLT, and some general resources.

Since every country has different sign languages, I would stick to the Spanish signs if possible. Failing that, perhaps use the UK ones purely because the cbeebies signing programme "Something Special" is so popular and so good. Irish sign language is sort of similar to American Sign Language, but distance limits usefulness unless you're going to be living in either country in future.

mariammma Sat 24-Nov-12 23:48:34

The one really important point when trying to aim for speech is to always speak and sign together. So the sign is like a subtitle, or an illustration, not a replacement.

Your SLT may be anxious because of reports of a child whose progress in moving to speech wasn't very fast, the combination method guards against that.

RingEir Mon 26-Nov-12 21:47:41

mariammma thanks so much for those links. According to their website the cincodeditos system is based on American Sign Language rather than Spanish SL, so I think maybe the ASL system is the best choice for us. I think it is a bit more iconic than Makaton, and as regards DVDs etc, the American accent is closer to mine than British, although there will be a few differences re: vocab. Phew, now I'd better get to work on it, it seems very daunting but if we are successful it will be worthwhile. Thanks again to everyone for your help.

SuperSoph73 Tue 27-Nov-12 11:28:04

Hey RingEir. We live in Gran Canaria and have a four and a half year old son with DS. We came across the same thing as you. Our logopedia said that they only started sign language when the child got to a certain age and still couldn't speak! Obviously I tried to convince them that the earlier it was done the better. We're self taught and know very little Makaton but Sam does watch a lot of Mr Tumble and other DVD's with Makaton in.

Also logopedia's/foniatria's are funny over here because they've never known anyone with DS to be bilingual. I was actually told by the foniatria that I would have to pick a language for Sam. I promptly told him that this was never going to happen and gave him loads of translated printouts to prove that children with DS can and are bilingual. Sam and I are on a mission to prove this to them smile In mainland Spain they should be more accepting of the fact that there are bilingual people with DS as I know of at least two Spanish adults, who have degrees and are bilingual.

Whatever you do, stick to your guns. Sam still doesn't really speak and what he does say tends to be in Spanish but he understands both languages perfectly. Also Sam attends a state special school so obviously his whole day is spent in Spanish. If your son is able to attend an English speaking school then that would obviously be a great help all round. Sam was supposed to be at an English school but I'm still too traumatised by the whole situation regarding this that I won't get into it on here.

Basically though you probably are going to have to teach him to sign yourself. Makaton, fortunately though, is very easy for us as adults to learn and there are packs you can buy which go through the process step by step. I hope this helps, even if it is only because you know there are people out there going through the same thing as you.

If you want any other advice about anything else, don't hesitate to let me know. You can PM me if that's easier.

Regards, Soph xxx

RingEir Thu 29-Nov-12 15:58:46

Hola Soph, your experience sounds all too familiar. Although our logopeda accepts the bilingualism, it is constantly referred to in our centre as if it will be an impediment to our son. She also wanted me to teach him the basic concepts in Spanish first ('a comer', 'a beber', 'a dormir') and then later in English. I just ignored this basically. At the moment Killian definitely understands a lot of phrases in both English and Spanish, but it is probably true that acquiring two languages at the same time will mean he begins to speak a bit later than other children with DS. While this is seen as a huge problem by our speech therapist, I am not that worried as long as I feel he can understand. He will speak when he is ready. On the other hand, I feel we can help his communication skills by teaching him sign language. It's just disappointing that I will have to do it alone and in spite of them, rather than with help and support.

It's really great to hear of success stories like yours though, and you're right, I know I should stick to my guns. I had a similar battle over the breastfeeding, (Killian didn't have a 'chupete' or 'biberón' shock!) and I won in the endsmile It's just wearing when there is so much else to do.

At the moment it looks like Killian will be going to mainstream schooling, although it depends on how he gets on. I am not sure what are the possibilities here (Ciudad Real) for bilingual school but to be honest, after my experience teaching in some of these schools, he might be better off just with me.

I am sure we have a lot in common so it would be good to stay in touch. Besides there must be a few others in our situation. I think I remember before hearing (on mumsnet) from a British Mum with a child with DS in Alicante.

Thanks again so much for your post, it means a lot. Besos, RingEir.

SuperSoph73 Fri 30-Nov-12 11:09:36

Hey there! Yes, you're sooo right about it be wearing. Sam didn't use a dummy either and when he had to see a cardiologist and have a scan they were completely gobsmacked grin. All they kept saying was "how are we going to keep him still??" Errr, here's an idea, let me sit next to him and talk to him!!!! Hey ho, some things do make me smile. I'd love to keep in touch we can have a good old winge together when the Spanishness just gets tooo much! I work in a school too. Which one did you/are you working at?

Speak soon.
Love, Soph xxx

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