Imagination is both innate and cultivated. What and how you play with your baby will set the stage for success when it comes to their ability to visualize experiences outside their context. As you begin reading to your baby or toddler take the opportunity to foster their imagination by expanding the narrative and including relevant signs and images not normally available in their day-to-day experiences.
Recently we have been reading western stories, so we are learning the signs for cowboy, American Indian and horse:
We are also engaging in role play and including words like monster, fairy and elves. We have included all of these signs in our Dictionary which is available online and as a book in our baby sign language store.
Words that encourage imagination are not a primary need. They are a nice-to-have as your little one develops the ability to recognize make-believe and he or she embraces literature and visual media. Take the time to teach your little one to discern between reality and make-believe. As you do that you may want to teach your baby signs such as “fake”
Through the use of books and movies you will be able to expand your child’s imagination as well as his vocabulary. The earlier you start the better the results. A weekly trip to the library may just be the most precious journey in the adventure of learning and growing up.
If you are like most of us you are deeply concerned for those affected by hurricane Harvey. In our case, we are particularly touched by those who had to flee and are currently parenting babies and toddlers. Yesterday we had the opportunity to volunteer at a temporary shelter and we identified specific needs of those dealing with the added complexities of having little ones without a place to call home. As you prepare to donate or assist please keep this tips in mind.
A natural disaster is not an opportunity for you to clean the garage. Large toys, out of season clothes and high tech gadgets have no place in the donation bin. Practice relevancy and meet immediate needs. Pre-wash all baby clothing and pack it in clear bags marked with size and a note indicating that the item has been washed.
Give What You Would Like to Receive
I could not help it notice the donation stack had piles and piles of lower quality disposable diapers. A blowout is not fun at any time but it is particularly difficult if you have limited access to water. When selecting donations shop as if you were shopping for your own baby.
Consider Special Needs
Think about sensitivities and allergies. Pick fragrance-free baby products and consider donating formula that addresses specific food sensitivities.
Give Your Time
Many babies have been relocated to hospitals hours away from their families. If you are a NICU volunteer consider increasing your hours. This little ones need to be held
Strollers & Pack ‘n Plays
In many shelters families are given only cots. If you have small strollers that recline and compact pack ‘n plays consider donating.
Have Bigger Items? Play the Wait Game
In a few months those whose houses were damaged and had no flood insurance will need all manner of goods. Hold on to your nice stuff. You will soon have the opportunity to make a difference and help a family or two trying to put their lives back together.
Baby Wearing is Life-Changing During Stressful Situations
If you have a high quality baby wearing wrap to spare consider sharing. When you don’t have a private place to let your baby rest baby wearing is a second best option.
Small but Important, Loveys & Pacifiers
Many families evacuated last minute leaving behind their most basic possessions. Take time to pick and donate small loveys and pacifiers to bring little ones a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Don’t Forget Breastfeeding Mamas
Many evacuees don’t have access to a car. If you are donating to a shelter consider including breastfeeding pads, high quality breastfeeding new bras and gently used breastfeeding-friendly tops.
Donate Money to Qualified Charities
This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Select charities and organizations known to be good stewards and donate generously.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit with my friend Martha who is a speech therapist. I was quite surprised to see several decks of baby sign language flash cards in her therapy room. I had to ask why someone whose main objective was to help someone speak was making use of sign language as a support tool for her sessions. Martha was quick and eager to tell me about several patients under three years of age who were hard at work overcoming childhood apraxia of speech, also known as developmental verbal dyspraxia.
To put it simply CAS is a condition where the brain struggles to direct the body to act in ways conducive to speech. A child with apraxia does to have muscle weakness or paralysis hindering speech. Instead, the order from the brain to form sounds through the use of muscles and movements is not happening the way it should. A child with CAS lacks precision and consistency when vocalizing and in some instances he or she will not speak but will demonstrate full understanding of words and concepts.
Little ones diagnosed with CAS have three key characteristics that differentiate their condition from other speech disorders:
Inconsistent errors in consonants and vowels in repeated production of syllables and words
Lengthened coarticulatory transitions between sounds and syllables (pauses).
Inappropriate prosody (prosody is the rhythm of speech as in the way poetry has musicality), especially in the realization of lexical or phrasal stress
What Causes Childhood Apraxia of Speech?
The cause for CAS is not known but generally speaking there are genetic factors and instances where this motor disorder is related to injuries at birth
This is How Baby Sign Language Flash Cards Help
CAS is not curable but children can overcome it through early intervention and therapy. Therapy for CAS has a multi-prong approach. Therapy is led by a speech pathologist and is handled in short, high intensity sessions that tackle motor learning.
Baby Sign Language Flash Cards are useful at all stages of therapy as one of many augmentative communication resources.
-Toddlers are encouraged to sign creating opportunities to refine motor skills.
-Toddlers have the chance to point aiding in the communication of immediate needs.
-Toddlers are able to receive visual feedback associated to specific verbalizations.
-Toddlers can have a tactile experience by holding the card and engaging with the therapist.
In everything there is the right way and the wrong way, sign language for babies is not an exception. I am always surprised when I receive emails from parents, preschool teachers and speech pathologists facing common frustrations associated to how and when a child begins signing. If you are about to embark in the journey of teaching signs along with working on their speech I want to invite you to take note of a few common mistakes regarding the teaching approach of baby sign language.
Inconsistency is a Deal Breaker
We learn to communicate through imitation and association. When we pick and choose when we will use a sign we delay how the child begins to associate the sign with a concept. Signing only during play or while engaging in teaching sessions fails to aid in conveying how a sign is useful in real life interactions. Think about baby signs the way you think about words use the sign each time you use the word.
Don’t Teach Too Many Signs
You are not trying to break a Guinness Record! Too many signs lead to confusion. Focus on words and signs that are relevant to the immediate needs of your child. Pick practical concepts like food or basic needs like more or hurt. Also have some fun including your child’s favorite objects.
Don’t Expect to Get Equal Results
We all have a friend with a genius child but don’t let that discourage you. Every child walks their own journey of communication but all eventually get to a point where they are able to communicate. Observe their learning style and make adaptations accordingly.
Say No to Taking Yourself Too Seriously
Baby sign language is a fantastic tool to equip your pre-verbal child in ways that make life easier. With that said, your central role as a parent or educator is to improve the quality of life of little ones. Relax and fill each learning experience with joy. Believe me. You will get there!
Don’t Shy Away From Using Music & Props
One of the most fun and effective tools for teaching signs happens when we find ways to engage multiple senses. Sensorial learning expedites how our brain processes information. Don’t hesitate to use small toys, flashcards and songs when trying to reinforce a concept.