Monday, February 24, 2014

A Few Common Questions

What is Signing Smart?

Signing Smart is a research-proven approach developed by two Ph.D.s in Developmental Psychology who have years of experience signing with their own children, as well as with the thousands of families that have been a part of Signing Smart programs. It is a strategy-based approach to signing with hearing infants and toddlers that is fun, simple, and successful. The program was developed by Michelle Anthony, M.A., Ph.D., and Reyna Lindert, Ph.D. who met while pursuing their doctorates in Developmental Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. Each having a young child, the pair searched the available infant / toddler sign language resources to find one to use with their own families. However, they soon realized that nothing available gave parents the tools to easily integrate signing into their hectic and varied lives. From there, Signing Smart was born!

The goal in creating Signing Smart was to do more than simply teach parents and caregivers a handful of useful signs. Rather, Doctors Anthony and Lindert have sought to help enrich what parents are already doing with their babies, using American Sign Language as the medium. Signing Smart meets the needs of parents and other caregivers who are looking for ways not only to stimulate development and learning in young children, but also to help foster communication and intimacy between parents/caregivers and children. All of the Signing Smart materials are developed with real-time parenting in mind, and they are designed to allow Signing Smart to be something that enriches what parents and caregivers are already doing, as opposed to something that takes over family life.

What is the Signing Smart Beginner Play class? 

The Signing Smart Beginner Play Class series meets for 45 - 60 minutes each week for 10 weeks. Parent(s) and their child aged 6 months - 2 years attend together in a a playful environment where parents or caregivers and their hearing children learn ASL signs and research-proven Signing Smart Strategies while playing and interacting. Activities include gross motor play, large and small group interactions, reading, singing, and much more! These developmentally-based activities help to foster intimacy and communication between babies/toddlers and their parents by facilitating both linguistic and cognitive development, building conceptual understanding, memory, and vocabulary.

The classes are great for families new to signing with their babies as well as for those who have already started. More than simply teaching "routine" signs, the classes are full of both useful signs and ones that are most motivating to your child.

In the Signing Smart Beginner Play Class Series, you will learn the Signing Smart Start as well as how many and which signs to use throughout your signing journey. You will also learn Signing Smart Interaction Strategies, how to bring signs into your child's world, how to recognize and respond to your child's early signs, and other ways of making signing simple, fun, and successful. To top it off, you will learn relevant developmental information related to sign, word, cognitive, and emotional development-all while playing and interacting!

I can't commit to 10 weeks, is there a quicker way to learn the Signing Smart strategies? 

For those who would prefer to learn the simple, successful Signing Smart strategies without attending a short class each week, I suggest the Beginner Workshop for Parents, Grandparents, Caregivers, etc. This 3-hour workshop is designed specifically for adult learners and is intended for those for new to signing with their baby as well as for those who have already gotten started and are looking for support during the early phases. More than just motivating parents to sign, this workshop helps parents develop a plan for successfully signing with research-proven Signing Smart strategies and techniques. You will learn the Signing Smart Start - how many and which signs to use in the early stages - as well as how to build up your signs as time goes on. In addition, you will learn to create interactions in which your infant or toddler most easily learns signs, how to bring signs into your child's world, and how to recognize your child's first signs.

Through instructor presentation, interactive activities and discussion, and video examples, you will learn over 35 ASL signs, as well as tools, strategies, and resources that will enable you to experience the success of Signing Smart from the very first day. The workshop is perfect for expectant parents as well as those with children from birth through 2 years of age.

I've seen other "baby signing" programs. Why should I choose Signing Smart?

Here is why I chose Signing Smart for my family.

Additionally, there are many compelling reasons to use a proven plan and a set of strategies to allow signing with your infant or toddler to be something you integrate into your life, as opposed to something that takes over it! Many other programs stress there are many compelling reasons to use a proven plan and a set of strategies to allow signing with your infant or toddler to be something you integrate into your life, as opposed to something that takes over it! Here are some other reasons I think you should make Signing Smart a part of YOUR family.

My son/daughter is already 12 (or 14, or 18, etc.) months old, isn't it too late to start signing with him/her? 

Absolutely not! Research has shown that children not exposed to American Sign Langue until preschool still reap the benefits. In fact, studies have shown that children who used ASL as infants, toddlers, and/or preschoolers perform better in elementary school than their non signers, especially in the areas of literacy and language.

Also, "The Myth of the First Five Words" applies to this situation. In short, for a good amount of time, children are often more difficult to understand after they have a sizable vocabulary than when they only speak a hand full of words.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Myth of the First Five Words

There is a belief that as a child learns to speak, he or she will be easily understandable fairly quickly. The notion is that, after a child has mastered 5 words, he or she will continue to gain vocabulary quickly and will be a readily understandable conversation partner.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in reality. In fact, a child may become more difficult to understand for some time after they have amassed a rather sizable vocabulary. For example, when your son says his first word: dog (which sounds like "da") you know when he excitedly squeals "DA" that he saw the dog walk by his line of sight. Now imagine that his next words are Dada ("dada"), that ("da"), ball ("bah"), Mama ("mamama"), and duck ("da da da"). All of a sudden "da" could mean just about any of those things are seen. Better yet, as development continues, so does the ability to talk about things that aren't present. Maybe your darling baby boy is remembering the fun he had with his toy ducks in the bath last night, or trying to tell you he'd like to go off in search of the dog. Of course, as your child grows and gains more experience with speaking and the world around him, his language will become easier and easier to understand - first to those who spend time with him daily and then to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.

If you aren't already living it on a daily basis, I'm sure you can imagine how frustrating this process can be for both adults and children. We want, so desperately, to convey our wants, needs, interests, excitement, fears, etc. We want, just as desperately, to understand our children when they try to convey these things to us. Unfortunately, it takes a few years for the muscles and experience necessary for speech to develop to the point of real fluency.

Luckily, we have the ability to provide our children a means of early communication while those muscles develop. Much like crawling provides an early means of transportation while the muscles and experience required for walking develop, using American Sign Language provides support while spoken language is still emerging.

Want to start signing with your infant or toddler?

Please contact me at - I would be happy to help you find a Signing Smart program in your area!

Already started signing with your little one? What are your top reasons for choosing to share this gift of early communication with your family?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Session....New Faces

Please help me welcome the new students who joined the Signing Smart family over the weekend!

Mr. H., Miss L., and Miss C. along with their families have started a noble journey.  This group is a tad older than my last few have been, so I'm excited to see thier progress as the weeks continue.  In fact, I spotted a first sign while we were in our first class!

Whether starting Signing Smart for the very first time or returning for a first round with a new family member the first weeks of class can seem daunting at times.  When will that first sign show up?  Will I recognize it? What if the he/she never signs back? Did I sign that the right way?  What am I forgetting from class?  All these questions, and certainly others as well, might come up.

Rest assured - you have the tools to do great things, you want to do great things for your WILL do great things for your child.  In fact, you already are!  Just by starting this journey and having the desire to give you child the gift of early communication, you are fabulous things for your child in the area of communication! Add that to the other great choices you've made about what to feed your child, which diapers to use, and how to love them and make them a part of your family - you are a SUPERSTAR!

What advice would you share with parents who are just starting their Signing Smart journey?