Thursday, June 27, 2013

Grumpy Monkey!

Signing with your little one will help to reduce tantrums and frustration - but, unfortunately, it won't wipe them out completely. There will still be those days that have earned both my boys the nick name grumpy monkey.

Sometimes, reminding your signer to use the signs he or she knows is a big help - a tap on the hand or even verbal request can be all it takes.  Maybe seeing you sign will do the trick.  Once your grumpy monkey is able to communicate what he or she is thinking, often the tantrum will naturally subside.

Easy - we've achieved toddler world peace!

OK, not quite.  There will still be times when your little one is overtired, overstimulated, or may not even know what the problem is.  In these situations, all the communication strategies in the world might not be enough. Sometimes, just like us adults, being able to label the problem doesn't solve it. These are the times we rely on our creativity to figure out/solve the problem at hand or distract from it.

What are your favorite go-to strategies when signs aren't enough to dispose of the grumpy monkey?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Where Does the Time Go?

This week, it feels like I blinked and 2 days had passed.  Where did the time go??

That's one of the great things about Signing Smart - it's meant to fit into the life you're already living.  Unlike some of the other programs out there, I will never tell my students they have to sign a particular word every time they say it.  Who needs that pressure?  Plus, it's just not necessary! Making small adjustments to the way you're already playing - which is the way your baby is built to learn - is all it takes.

Some of our favorite activities to layer with signs:

  • Reading books
  • Singing songs
  • Going to the zoo
  • Playing with toys

What are you family's favorite activities to add signs to?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Do I Learn All Those Signs??

To  be honest, this is a topic that I struggle to give advice on.  I came to the program with a sizable ASL vocabulary already in place.  I wasn't trying to learn the signs to stay ahead of my little one's interests and developments. Signing Smart has some great tools for learning sign vocabulary, but HOW do you use them? Here's a few things I typically suggest, but I'm really interested to know your strategies too!

The diaper bag dictionary flash cardss are one fun tool.  These are great because they're durable and on a ring so they're easy to carry around.  It's also easy to break the deck apart and leave a few on the kitchen window sill, a few in the car, even a few actually in the diaper bag.  That way, whenever you have a few extra seconds you can quiz yourself or learn something new.

The ASL Glossary DVD is also really nice because it includes a description and mnemonic for each sign instead of just a picture/video of what it looks like.  It's easy to look up one specific sign you're looking to add to your vocabulary or browse through several as a refresher.

Practice with yourself in the mirror or at a red light.  It sounds silly, but it really helps you to internalize how each sign feels.

Practice with your partner.  Try to incorporate a new sign into conversation each week.  BONUS:  You can start talking to each other across the room or without someone else hearing!

What strategies have you tried?  What's been your favorite?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Won't That Delay Their Speech?

This is, by far, the most common question I hear about teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to infants and toddlers.  It's something I imagine you have heard as well when you share with friends, family, doctors, even strangers that you sign with your child. Or, perhaps you have heard other skeptical remarks about your choice to incorporate ASL into your family's communication.

While it can often be easiest to just smile politely and ignore these comments, there are times when you need to give more of a response.  The simple answer is No, signing with infants and toddlers will absolutely NOT delay their speech or prevent them from speaking all together.

I once saw a very interesting comparison of signing and crawling by Monica Beyer.  Just like crawling precedes walking and does not prevent baby from walking when he/she is developmentally strong enough, the same is true of signing and spoken language.

What's more, research has actually shown the opposite to be true.  Infants and toddlers who sign have larger vocabularies and speak earlier than their non-signing counterparts.  In fact, the founders of Signing Smart, Dr. Michelle Anthony and Dr. Reyna Lindart,  studied over 200 families from across the U. S. and found some very encouraging results. The children studied were between 6 months and 19 months old.  Those where were signers had been signing for at least 8 weeks. (

My own experience with my first son who is nearly two and a half was similar.  At less than 8 months old, he was telling us when he wanted MORE, when he was ALL-DONE, and was even starting to label MOMMY and DADDY. At 10 months, he was telling us when he was tired and wanted to go to BED, asked to see his favorite singing LION, and pointed out every FAN he came across. At just over 1 year, he used over 25 signs and half a dozen spoken words. Now, at nearly two and a half, he consistently uses 4 and 5 word sentences to express himself, and I've stopped trying to number every word in his vocabulary because it just grows too darn quickly!

What are the best strategies you've found for explaining your choice to sign with your little one and deal with skeptics and naysayers?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why I Think Signing Smart Should Have a Place in Your Family

There are a litany of reasons I would encourage any family to sign with their children. especially with the Signing Smart program.  Families who supplement their spoken language interactions with their children with American Sign Language (ASL) signs meaningful to them are enhancing both early communication and long term learning. Below is a list of my favorite reasons for choosing to sign with little ones using the Signing Smart program.

(Want to start signing with your own child?  Check out for a workshop or play class near you!  Are you in the Northeast Ohio area? Please e-mail me at!)

  • Reduced frustration and tantrums

    • Children as young as 7 months (even younger on occasion) can express their wants and needs
    • Toddlers can clarify their speech
    • Did you know that many tantrums stem from frustration over not being understood?
  • 100% American Sign Language
    • Many infant and toddler sign language programs actually use made up gestures instead of REAL Sign Language
      • If you're going to put out the effort to learn a language, learn one that others can understand as well
      • Language facilitates language  - the brain favors orgainzed language units
    • Consistency
      • No need to try to remember all the invented gestures you developed
      • Is your gesture for "CAR" different than another caregiver in your child's life?
    • Limitless vocabulary
      • Want to use a sign that isn't part of the program?  All you have to do is look in an ASL dictionary
    • Expand your learning to communicate with other ASL users
      • Signing Smart gives you the perfect base to go on and learn a whole new language
      • Create connections in the brain now to facilitate bilingualism later
      • Communicate with deaf children and adults

  • Better understand your child's linguistic and cognitive milestones
    • What counts as a "word"?  How many words does he/she have?
    • When can I expect my child to sign back and how many signs can I expect when?
    • When will my child start speaking?
    • Signing Smart was developed by two mothers who happen to be developmental psychologists, Dr. Michelle Anthony and Dr. Reyna Lindert
  • Enhanced feeling of empowerment for your child
    • Children can initiate conversation
    • Children can share what they wonder about, remember, and find interesting
    • Children can let you know when they're hurt or sick or what they dislike
  • Research-proven strategies that make signing fun, easy, and successful
    • Anyone can learn to sign with their child
      • Signing Smart gives you the tools and strategies to make it happen
    • Any child can learn to sign
      • Many signs, especially early ones, use natural movements and hand shapes for baby
  • Open a window into your child's mind 
    • Get to know their likes and dislikes
    • Even though  the muscles needed for speech aren't developed until well after 1 year, babies are ready to communicate long before that
  • Advanced linguistic and cognitive abilities 
    • Learning is triggered via multiple senses
    • Research has shown children who sign have stronger linguistic abilities and higher IQs through the elementary years
What are your favorite reasons for signing with your little one?  (I do moderate comments to weed out spammers.  Thanks for your patience!)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why Does Signing Smart Get a Place in my Family?

Long before my first son was born, I knew I would sign with my children.  As a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter, it seemed a no-brainer.  We would be spending time with Deaf people, and they would need to be able to communicate.

When I was pregnant, and as a brand-new mommy, though, putting my wishes into practice seemed harder than they should be.  I knew the language, but how would I teach this precious new being a 2nd language before he learned his first?!

I started doing a little research.  I knew that teaching hearing babies to sign was becoming more and more popular, and I hoped that I would find a class in my area.  At first, I was incredibly discouraged.  My biggest requirement in a program was that it used 100% real ASL, and many programs didn't.  They used silly made up gestures that I couldn't imagine being able to distinguish in every-day life - "sniffing" to mean flower - and there weren't any classes offered near me anyway.  After a few weeks of digging I did come up with a short list of programs that existed SOMEWHERE using real ASL.  Then, after talking with a few other new moms I knew, I decided I would just have to take the jump and make things happen myself.  I joined Signing Smart as a licensed instructor and started planning for my first class.

As I spend more and more time teaching infants and toddlers to sign, and telling people about Signing Smart, I fall in love with the program over and over again.  Yes, it met that original requirement, it uses 100% real ASL signs, but it's so much more.  The developers of the program, Drs. Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert, used their developmental psychology backgrounds to create a program that is firmly grounded in what infants and toddlers are doing and how they best learn- play.  It gave me a few basic strategies to adjust what I was already doing as a mom.  And, most importantly, it worked!  At less than 8 months old, my son was telling us when he wanted MORE, when he was ALL-DONE, and was even starting to label MOMMY and DADDY. At 10 months, he was telling us when he was tired and wanted to go to BED, asked to see his favorite singing LION, and pointed out every FAN he came across.  At just over 1 year, he used over 25 signs and half a dozen spoken words.  Now, at nearly two and a half, he consistently uses 4 and 5 word sentences to express himself!  My husband and I are also loving watch our big boy teach his little brother signs.

I'm so proud that my boys are learning to communicate with those around them.  I enjoy having an even deeper connection with them than I would if we didn't use the Signing Smart program.  I'm honored when I get to share these great things with other families, and I adore watching them grow and change and learn together while we play and sing and have a good time!

Monday, June 3, 2013


My goal for this little corner of the web is to encourage and support those who have made the awesome choice to use American Sign Language with their children.  I hope to post a couple of times each week to answer questions, share activities, suggest resources, and more!The biggest focus will be on the families who are or have been a part of my Signing Smart Play Classes and workshops.  However, I will do my best to answer questions from others as well.

Do you have a question about signing with your little one?  Want to know how you can get started giving your son or daughter the gift of early communication and long term learning? I'll do my best to get you some information.

Interested in taking a Signing Smart Play Class or workshop?  Check out for a location near you!