Learning Sign Language Naturally – How to Incorporate it into Daily Living

As Noah (5 – Down syndrome) continues to struggle with language acquisition, using sign language is becoming more and more of a route around here.  Even as he learns to say words, sign language is a great prompt and a great backup for when his pronunciation isn’t clear enough for us to understand what he is saying.  Even those who do not understand sign language benefit from his signing because so many of the signs are logically connected to the words they represent.

(Isn’t this ADORABLE?)

For example, if he attempts to say butterfly, he will probably not be understood.  But if he says butterfly in the context of animal or something he is seeing and he backs it up with the sign, you will most certainly know what he is saying.  Your understanding will give him the motivation and confidence necessary to continue with his attempts at speech.  It’s a win-win situation.

So, now that we’ve talked about the why, let’s talk about the how.

How in the world, in the midst of raising a family, do you learn a new language?  And not just how do you learn sign language, but how do you practice it so that it is not learned and then forgotten?

I’ve struggled with that one as we have broadened our sign language vocabulary to a point we know most of the “necessary words.”

Here’s what hit me today, as I realized the term “girls and boys” is used at least 9 times in the book, “The Little Engine that Could,” as retold by Watty Piper.  (Noah’s speech therapist has been working with him on identifying boys versus girls and learning the signs for both.)  If you are spee

Books + sign language graphics = Practical practice and review every day.

You know that book you read to your child over and over again every day or two?  What if you had a collection of small sign language graphics to glue or tape to the pages for key words in the story?  (Click on the page for a printable version.)

These graphics came from http://www.answers.com/topic/the-girl-told-the-boy-that-she-loves-him

The best thing about this is even if you don’t have a copy ofThe Little Engine that Could, you can still use these graphics.  They are all common words used in children’s books, so don’t limit yourself.

Something else I like about this is that while daddys may be very willing to read to their children at night, often times they don’t want to sit down to a sign language lesson to recap what the child has learned that day.  It’s not that they have an aversion to learning sign language, they’d just like to be able to do it on their time without any pressure.  Moms, you don’t have to say a word.  Just put these cards in the books you want them in, and when your husband is reading that book to your child, he will see the signs and he’ll either learn them or he won’t.  But it’s all right there for him.  I think dads can tend to feel left out of the therapies and progress of their children.  This is a great way to include them on their terms.  But please, whatever you do, don’t nag them about this.  Just wait and see what happens.

This idea works great for siblings too.

I do suggest that you visit www.lifeprint.com to see video clips of the proper signs to go with these graphics.  It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re only looking at a picture; but if you see it on video first, chances are a picture will be all you need to remind you of the proper sign.

What are your favorite phrases in books to sign?

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