When asked about blogging for Deaf Insight, I thought why not see if I could do one about baby signing. I have been a baby signing teacher with a company in the UK called TinyTalk for the past 4 years and have loved every moment.
We use British Sign language as we are in the UK. We don’t sign every word when talking to a baby. We only use a small amount of signs that are most relevant for a baby.
Baby signing is for all children, deaf or hearing, as the main principle is communication before speech. When a child attempts to talk and also uses a sign, it is easier to understand what the child is trying to tell us.
So what is baby signing? Baby signing is using signs and gestures to pre-verbal children to aid communication. We also have toddler sessions and link in the fun with our early years foundation stage.
Each week in a typical TinyTalk baby signing session a family will learn around 6 core signs. The 30 minutes of structured class will have nursery rhymes and action songs that revolve around the signs that are being focused on that particular week. It is really important for me to know that the mums, dads, and grandparents that bring their babies and children leave our doors knowing these simple signs and that they can be confident to use them at home.
Many parents come for several terms. In fact, I have a little boy in my sessions aged 3 and a few aged 2 that have been coming since they were babies.
My son was able to tell me that he could see flowers and birds on our walk to school to collect the older children just by saying “birrrrr”, his hand movement, and also his sniffing. He used to sign “flower” at trees and hedges until I was able to explain to him aged 12 months that a tree was not a flower and show him the correct sign for tree. I talked to him about the tree and explained the trunk, branches, etc. and so language development had begun.
In the UK we may have some exams in school to take for sign language, but it will not be for a while. I believe helping a baby to learn some simple signs will not only help the initial communication before speech, but also aid speech as we talk at the same time. It is commonly known that a child who uses signs by the age of two has 50 more words in their vocabulary. Aiding language development with sign language will give them a head start in a whole new language.
For parents who have come to my classes, many have gone off to study BSL level 1. I am currently level 2 qualified and studying level 3. For me, baby signing has been a stepping stone for this beautiful language and I will continue to learn it all of the time. In the meantime, my ambition is to have as many nurseries trained as possible so their staff knows how to use baby signing within the nursery. Not only do I train child care professionals, I also run workshops.
Over the next few weeks I will be talking about the benefits of baby signing, the toddler talking class, what a parent goes through when finding out their baby is deaf, how baby signing will be a good starting point along with the local NCSD, how a deaf parent raises hearing children, how classes have benefited all involved and much, much more!
I am a mother of 4, teach baby signing and also BSL level 2 qualified, love TKD and much more.