Today’s guest post is from the gorgeously talented and beautiful Allison Davies, music therapist at Oh My Musical Goodness. She has two beautiful kids and signs with them as a way to communicate. It’s really interesting and in this post she will give us some more info and tell us the benefits. You may remember Allison being on the blog before telling us about music therapy.
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Teaching your baby to sign.
Why would you teach your baby to use sign language?
Are my Children Deaf? No.
Sensory difficulties? No.
Developmental Delays? No.
Language Deficit? No.
Cognitive delays? No.
Can they still benefit from sign language? A big fat YES!!!
I have such enthusiasm for this language and the powerful effect it can have on you, your child and your attachment/relationship. Sign language is one of the most powerful gifts of communication you can offer your child.
I taught my daughter how to sign at around 12 months and now I am teaching my son. Read some more about that here.
OK, so what’s so great about it?
AUSLAN (our Australian sign language) allows for both verbal and non-verbal communication, it allows your child to express their needs before they can talk, it helps with physical development and it just gives so much joy!
Generally children develop their gross and fine motor skills before their verbal communication skills and therefore the gift of sign language is a very beautiful, empowering and practical tool for children to have.
And perhaps most importantly, the highly interactive nature of sign assists in strengthening the bond in your relationship. When you sign you face each other, make eye contact, you gesture and are animated – these elements are often eliminated from verbal language as we text, talk on the phone, call out from the next room or chat whilst doing other things – yet these elements are integral to our relationships and we should be embracing them!
And just how does giving children an outlet, whereby they are NOT required to verbally speak, encourage speech I hear you ask?
Well, sign stimulates neural development and, as opposed to spoken language, engages both hemispheres and various cerebral lobes, which in turn strengthens their capacity for learning language and communicating verbally. It will reinforce your child’s language skills by giving them visual cues, a tactile experience and greater emphasis on facial affect and body language. In young children a second language is highly recommended by pediatric specialists and sign is a fantastic option for this very reason.
So how do you start?
When your baby starts to display gross motor coordination they may be ready to start sign. It’s not something you actively TEACH them, it’s something YOU learn – then you do the signs as you speak to them and they just kind of pick it up over time. And they often pick it up very, very quickly! You may be amazed at how early on in life your baby responds to you with moments of facial recognition because they’ve understood your sign. And these moments usually start happening before they’ve developed the skill of signing back to you. (And are so completely heart warming!!!)
Introduce just a few signs to start off with, stick with half a dozen that are key words you like to use – Thankyou, please, more, finished, stop, bed, hungry, milk etc. are ideal signs to begin with.
Be patient with the process, there’s no rush for your baby to start signing back or for you to learn every word under the sun. Make it fun – learn a couple of nursery rhymes, find some AUSLAN apps to play with, look things up on Youtube, make up some sign games. Take a look at this video I did with my kids:
Don’t worry too much about whether you or your child’s signing technique is perfect – you aren’t aiming for fluent dialect – just basic communication skills. Most young children and infants will adapt signs to their own little mindsets regardless! That’s all part of the fun of it!
I guess what it comes down to is that, for a very small amount of input, (ie. the use of half a dozen signs in your routine) you can achieve extremely significant outcomes. AND IT’S SO MUCH FUN!
Where can I learn some basic AUSLAN?
Well you’re in luck because I am a Registered Music Therapist and through my business, Oh My Musical Goodness, I offer online signing workshops catered especially for you. Face to face on skype over an hour you will learn up to 100 basic signs and a few nursery rhymes. Each session is valued at $70, makes a fabulously unique gift and will leave you feeling very clever indeed as you realize how simple sign can actually be! To find out more about these workshops or for a list of other exciting sessions visit here then go ahead and book your session today!
Allison Davies (BMus/BTeachMasMusThy) is a registered music therapist with The Australian Music Therapy Association and owner of ‘Oh My Musical Goodness’. She lives and works with her little family in Tasmania, specialising in the areas of early childhood intervention and mental health. Alli is especially passionate about bringing music and sound based services to those in isolated and remote areas and therefore offers an array of online educational sessions.
In the spirit of the end of one year and the beginning of another Alli would love to treat NNAM readers to 20% of any online session booked in 2014. Your session can be scheduled for next year but make sure you book it this year to claim your discount! Just email to secure your space!