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sign of the times

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Since we first brought Maddie home, we've been debating.

To sign or not to sign.
That is the question.
The answer up until last week was not to sign.
Maddie was doing a great job of understanding us...even if we couldn't always understand her.
But something changed last weekend.
We visited my brother and sister-in-law, Len and Valerie and their kids. One of those children was born with the same condition as Maddie. Kaycee came home from China about four months before we even met Maddie. Her adoption gave us the courage we needed to adopt our precious special needs little girl.
From the day she got custody of Kaycee, Valerie has been working with her on signing. And it has made a HUGE difference. There isn't much confusion as to what Kaycee needs, or wants, or is asking about. Valerie and Kaycee can have long quiet conversations (although Valerie usually speaks when she signs so Kaycee can also hear what is being said - she has the same hearing aid as Maddie.) and understand each other perfectly.
It was inspirational.
So I started asking questions.
Eventually Valerie popped in a kid's signing DVD. All of the kids sat down with us as we watched this thing and I was amazed. Maddie sat there, watched it and picked up on all kinds of things.
The video was mostly about food.
There was the sign for apple...
the motion for banana...
the signal for cereal.
Valerie showed us a few more; signs for 'cheese,' 'yucky' and 'sit still.'
That was so nice, I thought as we drove home. I'm so glad they're using it...but Maddie is doing pretty well without it. I figured since she was older it would just take more time to teach her the movements and that would just take away from our speech lessons.
Um. Yea.
I woke up Monday morning to Maddie's little face next to mine. As soon as I opened my eyes she made a motion across her chin.
'Wha...,' I mumbled.
'Mama! (movement),' she replied.
I racked my brain, trying to figure out what in the world she was trying to tell me, when it finally clicked.
She's signing the word for cereal.
And that wasn't all. She started using signs like 'thank you' and 'you're welcome' (same sign) and 'all done,' which we hadn't used since the first few months we were home.
As the day wore on it started to dawn on me...Maddie has always been a talker with her hands. It was her pantomiming that got us through the first few months.
For her, signing was just an extension of the pantomiming.
I jumped on a website Valerie recommended and picked a few new signs to teach her...sure enough, a few minutes later she was using them easily.
So I've been working with her on signing for the last few days.
She's taken to it like a duck to water.
'Cookie' is her favorite sign.
She uses it all the time.
She even put together, 'Mama,' 'Cookie,' 'Please,' all on her own.
She's one smart cookie.
I just wish I would have picked up on it sooner.
For your entertainment pleasure...
When we first walked into her Cubbies (AWANA) class the other afternoon I was surprised to see the teacher using sign language as a way of communicating with the little ones. I decided right then and there to use sign to help Maddie learn her verses. (Besides, you can't really understand her when she says the verses anyway.) So here is Maddie, working on her very first verse.

19 salty messages:

Anonymous,  September 25, 2008 at 11:46 AM  


it's so great that this is helping you & Maddie communicate. when i was my 14-month-old nephew's 24/7 nanny all summer (he's 4 now!) my sister told me that she & my brother-in-law use signs to communicate with him - even though he has full hearing!!!

she said that lots of new moms are doing it these days because apparently it's easier for a child to learn signs before they can learn to form the words they need to say. so i got a crash-course and was able to communicate with my baby nephew wonderfully!

with him, we ALWAYS said the words as we signed - i'd imagine that would be VERY important with Maddie as well, because she does have some hearing and eventually might be able to get things sounding right. but this is a wonderful step for all of you!

please keep us posted!

- michelle

Courtney September 25, 2008 at 12:20 PM  

You have no idea what a relief this is to me! I've been debating how much to encourage you toward sign, because Maddie obviously LOVES to communicate and my perspective is to give kids every opportunity to communicate. But at the same time, you are her mom and are there with her and know what the current situation is. So I've kept my mouth shut. :)
I think you will be amazed at her language jumps with sign. The signing will not delay her speech at all, in fact it will help as she learns to associate the words with the motions and the sentence structure.
I'm sending some more resources your way. :) :)

Suzanne September 25, 2008 at 12:46 PM  

Very cool! If you want to, send me your snail mail address and I will mail to you Garcia's Sign with your Baby DVD and some of his other material. We are done with them and I've been waiting to figure out who to share them with.


DoveFamily September 25, 2008 at 1:08 PM  

She did so good with her verse - wow! Isn't it amazing when things all of a sudden just click?!?! This is going to open up a whole new world for Maddie, and I imagine it will diminish some frustrations that all of you were experiencing. Good job, Maddie!

Jill September 25, 2008 at 1:46 PM  

We love signing. We signed with our daughter when she was 18 mos and not talking AT ALL. We used the Signing Times videos. They are excellent. It's a great way to communicate with your children, plus I use it in church when I don't want to speak aloud - very nice!

Shelley September 25, 2008 at 2:00 PM  

Sign language has been a wonderful gift for our children. I HIGHLY recommend the Signing Times video series. Maddie will love them and your other children will probably watch them too. It's also a great way for mommy and daddy to learn some signs. We use sign language in our home and all of our children have picked up on it and LOVE to help their brothers learn. My 6 year old has even taught her friends at school some signs. And...did you know that signing has been proven to help with learning even in children who hear well? Signing Times will also encourage reading, the way it's designed. If you want more info, let me know.

Hollands September 25, 2008 at 3:12 PM  

I love the way she signs "God". So graceful.
Way to go, Maddie!

Julie September 25, 2008 at 3:38 PM  

That is so beautiful! I just love teaching and watching children sign. She's doing wonderful!

Kristen September 25, 2008 at 4:53 PM  

Thank you for sharing.

Kathy and Matt September 25, 2008 at 4:58 PM  

It is great to see how well she can communicate and she seems to enjoy doing so!

Loved hearing her Cubbie verse. We've worked on the same ones with Leeza. So sweet to hear those precious words coming from these little sweet children.

Ashley September 25, 2008 at 10:55 PM  

I love the video! So sweet! I think it is awesome that Maddie is picking it up so fast and that she is enjoying it. Way to go! You are doing an awesome job! :)

MamaPoRuski September 25, 2008 at 11:49 PM  

Fabulous! She continues to amaze me and remind me that our job as parents is to unlock the gifts God has already placed in our kids. (Great job mom!)

Anonymous,  September 26, 2008 at 12:09 AM  

How precious is that! God is so good to inspire you to sign. Wow! Keep up the good work.

Anonymous,  September 26, 2008 at 10:27 AM  

wow! what a fast learner,that's amazing how fast she is picking up on that. have the early intervention teachers suggested signing to you,and what do they think is her prognosis for speech? i think that once everyone picks up on the signing thing your other kids included,it will be much less frustrating for maddie.good luck and good job!!

Christina September 26, 2008 at 3:07 PM  

Wow, check her out! I LOVE sign language and had big plans to use it with all my kids but my hands were always full or busy and I never got around to it. Wish I did though. We have a bunch of the Signing Time DVD's and my kids love them...so maybe that counts for something? :)

Susan September 26, 2008 at 5:54 PM  

I've always been a big proponent of total communication - i.e. using all forms of communication/language - with deaf and hearing-impaired children. It looks as if Maddie is taking right to signing - her intensely focussed expression in these latest photos seems to indicate huge interest, and I predict that you'll see her vocabulary and ability to communicate grow by leaps and bounds. It will be such a relief for everyone, Maddie herself, especially, when she can express herself more fully. Wiin-win all around!

Best wishes,
Susan in Ky
Cousin to two from Ukraine

MoscowMom September 26, 2008 at 6:48 PM  

How fantastic! Don't beat yourself up over it... You HAVE kind of been busy since getting Maddie and she's certainly adjusting well... What a gift to know realize you can add this to your repertoire.

She's so cute signing! She's grown up so much!

drdavid,  September 28, 2008 at 8:42 AM  

What a cutie! It will be so much fun to see how fast her communication increases now that she in signing. I think we will all be amazed!
You and your family are such an encouragement to my family

Old DAN AND Little ANN October 2, 2008 at 11:41 AM  

That is great! I always memorize the scriptures that I teach to my SS class the best too and I think it IS because I always add hand motions. Reinforces the learning for sure.

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