Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do I Really Need a Class to Learn How to Sign with my Baby?

In short, no. I certainly didn't need a class to begin signing with Amberly, but I have an advantage over most people, I signed since infancy.... it is indeed MY first language. There are a lot of resources out there where people can learn the signs themselves AND plenty of those resources are FREE. Why am I telling you this if the basis of my business is to enroll families in my classes? Well, I even share some of these online resources with parents in my classes. I'm a firm believer in having an abundance of information from which to draw. It is human nature to learn in a social environment. Most people who buy exercise equipment for their private use at home eventually slack off, one reason why gyms are so popular, why Stroller Strides and Mommy and Me Yoga classes are popular with new moms. When you have a weekly commitment to show up and participate you will gain more than just what you signed up for - "baby sign language know how"

1. A reason to get out of the house

2. Meeting new people to connect with

3. Insight on parenting dos and don'ts

4. Live coaching where learning is fluid

5. Answers to your questions from ME

6. Answers to your questions from PEERS

7. Your baby gets socialization

8. Safe environment to practice

9. No accidental tv babysitting

10. Desire to expand your ASL knowledge and vocabulary

Rather than paraphrase what Allison Wardrip says about enrolling in a Sign, Play & Learn class, I'll just share it here verbatim:

My daughter and I recently met Joann at a baby sign story time at our local library. After a fun and informative story time, I learned that Joann was starting a new 6-week series of baby sign classes in our area. My husband and I decided to take the baby sign classes, although we debated about whether or not the classes would be beneficial. We already had a baby signs book that we were using with our daughter. In addition, I had some experience with basic sign language in my previous career in early intervention for children with developmental delays, particularly Autism. The children I worked with (ages 3 and under), usually had difficulty using verbal language to communicate; therefore, we often introduced basic signs to help them communicate (i.e. eat, drink, all done). Through my work with these children, I saw the usefulness of sign language; most of the children successfully learned how to use sign to communicate their basic desires. So, utilizing my previous work experience and our baby signs book, we began introducing some signs to our daughter when she started eating solid foods (around 6 mos), such as eat, more, and all done, as well as labeling some of the foods she was eating. We continued to do this during mealtimes for several months, but she didn’t seem to be picking up the signs and wouldn’t use them to communicate with us. When she was 11 months, we started the baby sign classes and learned the importance of introducing signs of interest to our baby during fun, teachable moments. For example, our daughter loves music, so we switched to using the ASL signs while singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and, sure enough, not a week went by after our first sign class and our daughter started doing the sign for spider on her own! My husband and I are so glad we went ahead with the sign classes! We have enjoyed the interactive, kid-friendly, fun, and informative atmosphere of the baby sign classes (much more beneficial than just referencing a baby signs book!)! In addition to learning the essential baby signs, we also get a lot of helpful tips and tricks regarding child development in general that Joann intersperses throughout the classes. The best part is that we can tell our daughter is already benefiting from the sign classes! Since we’ve learned to capitalize on her interests, she has already started to pick up new signs, the most recent being “friend.” We know our daughter can understand a lot more than she can verbalize to us and we’re excited to continue to give her a means to communicate with us through signing as her verbal language is developing.

I guess I can relate to a mom feeling like she can do it on her own. As a new mommy I didn't want someone else spoiling my experience of "being the ONE" who showed my daughter how to do things, after all I'd taken time away from my employment to get to enjoy all those experiences with her and bond with her. I did not understand what all the moms around me were doing taking their baby to Stroller Strides or Swim Lessons... after not having any success with teaching our kids to swim on our own, we enrolled in an 8 week class with A Splashing Success and after that class I finally had the confidence I needed to take my kids to the pool, the safety instruction, the little tips and songs we used, the consistency of doing what we learned over and over again in a social environment... all of it played a role in Amberly learning how to swim this summer!

We pick up little things on the peripheal when we are surrounded by others trying to attain the same goal. I am reminded of what Eve Moran once said to me about her business... if we didn't all live within our own four walls and still had community living the way it used to be mothers wouldn't have a reason to seek out lactation support, they'd have a whole network of family and friends that were familiar enough and could help. Signing with babies is becoming so popular that in the next 5 years I'm certain that it will be the normal thing for a baby to use sign language and not the unique experience that only a fraction of parents embark on. I look forward to seeing that result, as children who sign are more self aware and this leads to a great impact for our society, but that shall be saved for a future blog post.

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 toolbelt with parenting tips and tricks coupled with signing as a great boundary teaching (discipline) tool for toddlers. View the schedule of classes at sign4baby.  Look for her webinar coming out in 2013!

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