Friday, August 1, 2014

Born to be..... SIGNERS!



Did you know that babies are born communicators? Shortly after birth if you stick your tongue out to your newborn, they will in turn stick their tongue out. When I instructed my husband to do this with my daughter as he held her for the first time after getting some oxygen post delivery he exclaimed "SHE STUCK HER TONGUE OUT AT ME! You have to sign MILK to her!" I loved it that we started off communicating from birth, letting my baby know that we would take the time to understand her. It's an amazing bonding experience that grows with you as you expand your signing vocabulary and go through the various baby and toddler stages. We talk to our babies from birth, and the Deaf sign to their babies from birth. If we know that humans, by design, want to communicate why not give them the opportunity to do so earlier?

The number one question I get from parents is this "when do I start signing with my baby?" And the answer is always the same. Now. The earlier you begin the more confident and more vocabulary YOU will have to be able to demonstrate the signs and be your baby's first teacher. An added benefit to signing early is the extra eye contact that newborns give us before they get mobile, so take advantage of this. Also, it ends up becoming part of your parenting paradigm, pausing to really understand your child, taking the time to figure out what they are telling you.... when you start signing early.

I encourage parents to start with signs for nouns, items your baby shows explicit delight in such as fan, light, dog, rattle, music, keys.... these are some of the most common items that babies have a natural curiosity for. Like with learning anything new, when it comes to sign language, parents will stay committed if they learn with a group in a structured environment. Baby sign language classes give parents the opportunity to ask questions and share stories which inspires them to keep practicing. Plus, it's good for both you and the baby to get out and socialize with other new moms and babies. Make new friends, learn a new language, get hip cuz baby sign language is more than just a trend, baby.

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching tool for toddlers. Want to know which signs most parents start with but get them stuck in the mud? Find out here.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Baby Sign Language is a Great way for Siblings to Bond

I remember the moment Amberly first decided to start signing to her brother. While I was offering him a sippy cup of water I was signing WATER. He had just started signing MILK a day or two before and Amberly knew how excited I was for this. She took notice of my repeated high pitch tone showing Kyle the sign for WATER and promptly came over and got between Kyle and me to show him the sign for WATER again and again and again. It was adorable! She said "Water Ky-ky. Water!" It was as though she knew intuitively that he would pay far more attention to her than to me. Which he did! He wouldn't take his eyes off her even if I tried to interject. She had not bothered to sign to him at all until he officially became a signing baby. Such wonderful memories watching her teach her baby brother to sign!




Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (discipline) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at Sign4Baby.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Parallels Between Pre Verbal Babies and a Deaf Mom

Whenever I'm driving solo for more than 20 minutes or in the shower my brain has a chance to wander a bit and I'm often struck by thoughts and ideas that really take my breath away. When something hits you like a ton of bricks that should have been so obvious before but wasn't. Or when an epiphany strikes on what else I can do to bring clarity to my clients.

It is especially common for these thoughts to strike me when I'm about to start a brand new class or have just completed a class with brand new students. Having done this for 7 years, I'm still amazed at the little things that I continue to learn and what revelations I have, proving this is a journey and it is the journey that is worth celebrating.

So this thought I had today....

 Image credit,  Stills by Hill

When I look into a baby's eyes and talk to them, for me it is clear that they are thinking, absorbing what I'm saying and forming thoughts and coming to their own conclusions. The conversations I have with the babies and toddlers in my class are pretty much an example of how I conversed with my own babies.... knowing that they are taking it all in and that rapidly growing brain is processing and storing everything. Sometimes when I'm conversing with one baby, another interjects. The new moms tend to laugh at the cuteness or just don't know what to make of it. What I make of it is that the child has seen that I'm open to listening to what they have to say, giving them the space to share and feel a sense of belonging and value. See, for most babies that do not yet have the tools to express themselves fully or be "heard" completely, I imagine it is frustrating for them to not be able to participate fully in regular daily conversations..... much like the experience my mom shared with me about how it is to be a deaf person in a room full of hearing people, where no one is signing and she feels isolated.

Much of my childhood I was a little interpreter for my mom. I gained a 6th sense in being able to determine if someone was getting their entire message across.... as it is with any two languages sometimes there is not a literal translation from one language to the other and some part of the true message is lost. So a little more explaining is needed by the interpreter. There were many occasions in my work life where that 6th sense came in handy and my superiors would always comment on this uncanny ability I had. There were little things to watch for, listen for that helped me identify that the words coming across were not "exactly" describing the picture in the customer's mind. I would do more fact finding and viola! We'd navigate the true course to solve the problem.

There were times I would not want to be "the interpreter," say for instance at a birthday party or at a school function, where my mom knew who these people were, but didn't "know" them because she couldn't converse with them. I was a kid and I wanted to play with my friends. Now that I'm an adult I can be at peace with those times that I was frustrated with the role I had. I commend Deaf parents who do not put this responsibility on their child.... even though I gained from it. There's not a right or a wrong here. It's a tough debate that I can see both sides of clearly. The biggest thing I gained from it was that sense of empathy for someone who could not fully express themselves because of a language barrier.

As a mom, specifically as a mom who embraced attachment parenting, I saw it as my responsibility to help build the bridge to effectively communicate with my children. As they grew their signing vocabulary I could see where they were more and more capable of jumping into a conversation when they heard something of interest being discussed. Most parents of toddlers and preschoolers will know what I'm talking about... but I'm saying that this happened every single day with my children as babies. They expressed pure delight when they got to share their thoughts, point out their observations, and really just connect on a conversational level. 

So, I have discovered yet another reason why I'm so deeply passionate about the work that I do. Being witness as a child to what it was like for someone to feel isolated due to a language barrier, I hope some of the moms that take part in my programs feel courageous enough to introduce themselves to someone in a social setting who is Deaf and could use some conversation. I also like to think that the babies in my classes are developing this 6th sense that I gained due to their access to language at an early age. And finally the sense of empowering a new mom to be that interpreter for her pre verbal baby is a gift that I never grow tired of giving.

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (discipline) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at Sign4Baby.




Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - baby sign language

Signing alongside Hullabaloo at Kid Ventures



Singing and SIGNING with your baby is good for brain development, spacial awareness, verbal acquisition, rhythm, fine motor skill development, word recognition, bonding and more!

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (discipline) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at Sign4Baby.




Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gift Certificates are Now Available




If you'll be attending a baby shower in the near future, this is a gift that will have everyone talking! The gift of communication will be one they use for a long time and you'll be facilitating that great bonding connection between mom and baby. Aside from all that baby sign language does for a baby, these classes will be great for mom so she can meet like-minded parents, make new friends and just plain get out of the house! Every new mom has good intentions of not becoming a home body, but it happens all too quickly. So, give this incredible gift to your friend and she will be ever so grateful!

These gift certificates are good for the Sign, Play & Learn class taught here in San Diego. Know someone outside of San Diego that would benefit from one on one coaching? Yes, I do travel, just give me a call to discuss a quote.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to Create your own New Mama Tribe

Before I became a mom I had zero intention of finding "new mom friends." But then I realized how hard it can be to make it through the day without people to share the journey with and started to step outside my comfort zone. Probably more at my husband's urging than my own volition. It was one of the things I dreaded most when I became a new mom. Going to play dates. Little did I know that one of the most beautiful things about being a mom was going to be letting my guard down to let people in who were experiencing this same journey. Extending myself to meet people who I didn't know but would grow to adore and lean on from time to time.

So, here it is.... 





1. Walk your neighborhood.... and stalk people with strollers and baby carriers! I don't really mean stalk them, but you know what I mean. These people clearly are at the same stage of life as you - stop them and say hi!

2. Go to the local library story time. This is how I met almost all the moms in my neighborhood. Shortly thereafter we formed a playgroup.

3. Connect with friends of friends. Ask people in your life to connect you with their other local new mama friends that you can meetup with to see if you jive. Everyone knows someone who has just had a baby.

4. Use meetup! It has been a great resource for new moms to find a local playgroup - just go to www.meetup.com and put "baby" and the current year in their search box and you're sure to find a group of moms who have just had babies seeking new friends.

5. Join classes! Swim classes. Music and movement classes. Baby Gymboree classes. AND of course baby sign language classes (wink!) as you'll get a chance to chat with other moms before and after class and find people you have things in common with and surely form new friendships. So many moms have become friends after meeting in my classes and it makes me so happy to see them connect and their children play together LONG after their time in my classes have ended.


Sophia (right) and Aly (left) sign to one another when they play!
Photo credit to Jessica Luongo as shared on our Facebook Page

6. Find a baby wearing group. These women may be the most kind and generous and helpful people I've known. Their purpose is to educate moms on the proper way to wear a baby and often they have a lending library to help you figure out what kind of baby carrier would be ideal for you. There's so many choices and seeing lots of women wear their babies in one place helps you to figure out what would be a good choice for you. Baby wearing was one of my absolute life savers as a new parent.

7. Blog about your experience! I have seen it time and time again in the blogging world. Just being real and open about this transition in your life will connect you to others going through the same thing and you end up with a support system... sometimes just voicing your challenges to the world is cathartic enough to figure out how to learn and grow and turn those challenges into adventures. 

8. My last one is simply "Ask for help." My birth educator taught me one important thing that continues to be a message I pass on. Tell the universe what you want and it will be attracted to you. Say it out loud. And when help is offered, accept it gratefully.

I know lots of mamas on the inter webs will have more ideas! How did you find your circle of support as a new mom?

This post was inspired by my friend Abby with her blog post: 7 Ways to Find Your Circle of Support When Pregnant and Postparum --- which you must go view even if just for the awesome quote image she shares there. 

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (discipline) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at Sign4Baby.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Founding Principles of Sign4Baby

As I was driving in the car the other day it dawned on me that I haven't shared the REASON for the name "SIGN 4 BABY" as my company name. It is two parts really. One is that there are 4 guiding principles, and the other is a constant reminder that we don't sign for our own benefit, but rather for our child's benefit.

The reason I founded Sign4Baby was more than just to teach parents ASL vocabulary. I wanted to make a difference by helping your baby.... AND helping you. While most parents report that their goal in signing with their baby is better communication, the foundation of my work has 4 guiding principles:

1. Better communication between baby and parent. 
Sometimes that means being a better listener. Other times that means really figuring out what your baby is saying. Either way, my goal is to help you establish better communication early on that will help you for YEARS to come. Often this means helping shift focus to the best signs to teach first, how to engage your baby and remembering to stay child focused for measurable success. There's a reason why my tagline is "Discover what your baby is thinking!" as we work to focus on your baby's curiosities and have fun along the way.

2. Bonding with Baby.
It is an important tenet of the Attachment philosophy to bond well with your baby so they feel secure and do not develop trust issues. I don't know about you, but I'd say a pretty fantastic bond is created when you can understand another person fully and they can understand you. Communicating effectively lays a foundation for a solid bond in your relationship to your baby.



3. Brain development.
I've said it time and time again, ALL babies are smart, just most of them don't have this tool, if you will, to SHOW you how smart they really are. When you can see a child comprehend something, it is innate that you continue to engage and teach. Parents of signing babies are given the positive reinforcement to be motivated to prolong discussion and exploration, in turn your baby is learning even more. Signing is a fabulous thing to add into your story time. I talk about it on the Fox 5 Mommy and Daddy Handbook segment last week. I know from my own experience growing up that children who signed as babies have an aptitude for learning... demonstrating higher IQ, being in advanced classes and being able to think outside the box.

4. Boundary Setting.
As your baby becomes a toddler they will love to explore and for their safety (and your sanity) you need to establish boundaries. It is a challenging concept for toddlers as they strive to become more independent and are seemingly met with more rules just as the world is getting more interesting with their new found ability to walk. The visual aid that baby sign language provides helps those boundaries become more clear to your exploring toddler and even supports the emergence of self regulation. In the end, the time invested in using sign language paired with boundary setting reduces a lot of frustration for YOU and BABY.

Your baby deserves to be heard and understood. Parenting should be made a little easier. I help you accomplish both of those things PLUS all of the above.

Joann Woolley is owner and instructor of Sign4Baby in San Diego teaching parents how to communicate with their preverbal baby using American Sign Language. With her in depth knowledge of ASL as her first language she takes you beyond just the basics in signing, also filling your parenting tool belt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (discipline) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at Sign4Baby.