Friday, August 17, 2007

"Sign" of the Times

Little Baby Jane is only 15 months old but has been communicating with us for some time now, using ASL or American Sign Language. She can hear just fine, and I'm sure she's right on track with her speaking skills. But we almost always know what she is thinking if she can't verbalize it yet. When she wants the ball, she signs 'ball'. When she wants more, she signs 'more'. When she is sleepy, she signs it. When she's 'freezing', she signs it (so cute).When she wants water, her bear, the dog, a cracker, cookie, banana, or 'ba-ba' (milk), we know it because she signs it. We've been doing simple signs with her since about 4 months old, saying the word and the sign simultaneously for whatever we're giving her. You feel pretty silly doing it to a baby that can't do anything but smile back at you. Then the next thing you know, they lift their tiny arm and squeeze their hand a few times, and you know they want 'milk'. It's pretty unbelievable.

We started partially because Eric's sister Emily graduated in ASL and started teaching it to our other kids here and there. It was fun for them to sign 'Dog' (slap your hand on your thigh and snap) and a few other signs. My neighbor at the same time asked if I wanted to borrow a sign language video for the day that she checked out from the library. She has a baby the same age and said she wanted to learn a few simple signs to make it easier to communicate with her baby. It was called "Signing Time" and we threw it in as we prepared dinner. As we watched it we were amazed that this mysterious language that looks so incredibly hard is actually quite simple word by word and many of the signs are so obvious! My mom noticed my kids interest in it and for Christmas bought baby Jane a Signing Time video called "Playtime Signs". Wow. Well, you know the result. Since then we have pretty much every video and not just Jane is signing now. Easton (13) and Brandon (7) are now signing and know almost every word I can even think of testing them on. Brandon will proudly show you every zoo animal there is and the accompanying sign. There is a deaf teenager in our ward and Easton can now proudly communicate with him, at least a little bit! We even can silently communicate with each other at Church - what a kick that is. So now Signing Time is played at least 2-3 times per day in the Francis household. If I need 15-20 minutes to clean the dishes or get some dinner started, Signing Time is just the thing for Jane. She kicks her little legs with excitement as soon as she sees the host Rachel pop up on the screen. And when she wants to watch the videos, she proudly makes an 'L' with her right hand by her chin and signs "Leah", the name of the girl in the video.

To our excitement, Signing Time and Rachel will be at the Hogle Zoo next Monday. Brandon and his cousins are so excited they can't hardly wait. I caught a little bit of them showing off their signs and talking about their excitement! In fact I'm taking the morning off of work to be there, and even flaking out of a very important meeting because I won't miss seeing little Jane's face when she sees Rachel in person for the world!

Although Jane's verbal communication is limited to the two words "Dad" and "Dog", her form of communication is so vast and rich, thanks to ASL and Signing Time! Thanks Rachel, Alex and Leah!