It's Share Your Story Week at Signing Time with Rachel Coleman. You can go here to view videos of families from around the world that have shared their stories on how Signing Time has made a meaningful difference in the lives of their children. You can also share your own story too! Come and be inspired by others and their journeys as new videos and funny stories will be posted each day!
So what's our family's story with sign language and how I came to become a Signing Time Instructor?
Many of you may not know but Honey and I actually have Thalassemia Minor, which is not alarming when an individual has it or even 1 spouse has it. However, if both spouse have it and want to have children together, their offspring have a 25% chance of getting Thalassemia Major, which could lead to organ damage and many blood transfusions just to stay alive, plus signs of it wouldn't show up until 3 months of life. So that information made us wait to have children because though we knew we wanted to be parents, we weren't sure we were ready to be parents of a special needs child. We prayed that God would either give us a healthy baby or the strength and love to be parents to a special needs child. We continued looking into information about Thalassemia Major, the treatments available, special needs support groups and programs. I also looked at activities that might help children with special needs. Then in 2010, we found out we were pregnant with Kiggster and the research got more serious. We chose not to do CVS or Amniocentesis testing since those would only announce whether or not Thalassemia Major was present but could not cure it or change anything but instead carried risks of miscarriage. We did not want to give up our baby, no matter the outcome so the testing did not seem helpful to us. During this time, I found out about teaching children sign language and found an instructor in my area that taught classes on actual ASL but the fun way. I always wanted to learn sign language myself-rewind to me in the 5th grade and reading a book about Helen Keller. I learned how to sign the alphabet in the back of the book and made a friend learn it with me so we could "talk" in class together without getting caught! I'm a bad influence, I know. But it was fun, it felt so secret…but we were trying to finger spell everything which took forever to complete a sentence-not so efficient. We read up all about the benefits (see below) and decided this was what was best to take, whether for a typical or a special needs child!
That's Kiggster inside my belly!
So when I went on maternity leave, the sign language classes were the first thing I signed up for. I was the only pregnant person in the class and Honey was the only Dad in the class but we knew we had to soak up as much as we could while we still had "time" since who knows what would happen once Kiggster was born! Honey and I had so much fun in the classes learning the signs and we even had fun practicing them at home together. Then Kiggster was born and we are so grateful she does not have Thalassemia Major, though she does have Minor along with low iron. We started using the signs with her at birth only so Honey and I could be practicing and make it a normal part of our lives. She didn't show signs of interest or understanding of the signs until probably when she was close to 11 months and her first sign was probably milk-the most important thing in her life at that time! Then once she got that first sign down, it seemed like a flip of a switch and she just kept signing other words…even ones that we had not done recently. It seemed like she had them stored in her memory bank for the moment when she was ready to sign back to us! She knew a lot more signs before she knew any words, though she was selective about who she would "speak" to! It's been amazing watching her learn to speak and sign at the same time-helps so much because when she says a word verbally, it's not always very clear or sounds similar to another word so having the sign language together helps us to decipher what she really wants or needs! I know this would have helped tremendously if Kiggster's diagnosis would have turned out differently, especially how she could communicate pain to us when she didn't know how to speak. That's when I decided to help other families discover the benefits of sign language and decided to become a Signing Time Academy Instructor!
Benefits of Signing With Your Kids:
Reasons I loved it:
- Helps Kiggster communicate to us what she wants even when she didn't know how to say the words.
- Allows us to understand what she is trying to say to us even after she's learned to say some words but not sentences.
- It's been a fun family activity as we all sign together: sign as we read, sign as we sing, etc.
- It's been helping us to potty train her earlier than many other children-we always did the potty & diaper signs to her as a newborn when changing her diapers and at around 12 months, she signed poop for the first time and we started the potty process!
- I love that she will have another language as she grows up that could be useful in breaking down the barriers between typical and special needs children.
- She has a fun, secret language she can use (yes, this is my own personal childhood dream transferred to her).
- Hopefully she can learns to use her signs rather than tears and tantrums to communicate.
If you love signing with your baby, what is your story and why did you choose it? If you haven't tried it yet, what are things that you find could be beneficial for you?