Tuesday, November 08, 2005


We have taught Maxfield baby/infant sign language. Many doctors and parents have documented the benefits of baby sign language.
Better relationship between the parents and the kid.
Improved brain development of the child.
Improved language skills.
Children that were taught sign language do better in school at a later age, and so on and so on.

But the real reason we taught Max sign language was to prevent tantrums. Knowing that he wants something, that he has needs, saves the headache of a screaming child and a frustrated parent. This by far the best reason to teach a toddler sign language.

I worry that the signs that we taught him will prevent him from actually speaking the words that he is trying to convey. I know he knows many words. He just does not speak them. Seriously why should he even try to say “milk” when he can just sign it to us?

Maxfield knows some, what I like to call, “solid” signs. Signs like “milk”, “drink”, “eat” and “bedtime”. These words all have an object involved. A specific need. He also, much to my amazement, knows the signs to, what I call “abstract” words. Signs based on a concept. Signs like “more”, “help”, “thank you”. Intangible signs.

Of course some of the textbook signs we taught him have been modified to suit his style. Whether it is because of laziness or just creative freedom, I don’t know.

Here are some examples.

Book Sign for MILK- One hand in the air imitating squeezing a cow’s udder.
Max Sign for MILK- One hand clapping. His fingers move so fast that his fingers hitting the palm of his hand creates a noise. This is followed by a whine.

Book Sign for HELP- Both hands slightly patting the chest.
Max’s Sign for HELP- Either one or both hands slapping his chest like an ape. This sign started out as HELP. Now it means, “Please open the cabinet that the television is in, and turn on Elmo. NOW”

Book Sign for THANKS- An open hand, palm facing the face, is brought up to the chin and brought back down.
Max’s Sign for THANKS- This sign is very similar to the Signs for EAT, Blowing a kiss, covering the mouth during a cough, HOT, and our sign for “Excuse me, I just burped.” When Max wants to say thanks, he either coughs or imitates a burp, ocassionaly he blows a kiss which I guess works.

Book Sign for DRINK-A hand shaped like it is holding a cup and tilted towards the mouth.
Max’s Sign for DRINK- Max started using this sign and it looked like the universal sign for “Can I have Beer.” Or “Ooops it looks like some one had a little too much to drink.” I t has now evolved to a pinky-and-thumb-out-surfer-dude “hang loose” sign.


Tammy said...

The sign for milk cracks me up!!

Does the book say anything about what I can do about the tantrums in my fully speaking 5 year old?

At this point, I'm willing to try anything.

kimmyk said...

my daughter was a little over 4 yrs old before she started speaking. she used sign language or her brother-which ever she felt the need to use at the moment i guess.
it was shortly after her 4th bday that she started yappin and i'm tellin ya she hasn't shut up...she uses her words at 12 now quite nicely but still signs somethings when she feels she can't get a word in edgewise.

i fear there's no shutting her up now.

Anonymous said...

I think this signing thing is really interesting. I know mrtl does it with Bug, too. I sure as heck wish I could teach my cats to sign - one of them is especially vocal and will look right at me and meow very expressively and I'm like, "Yeah, cat, I don't know what you're trying to tell me." Of course, that doesn't prevent me from having a conversation with him anyway.

Nature Girl said...

I used to do respite care for my friend whos child has multiple special needs. Being paralyzed on one side many of his signs are modified. I used one one day with a hearing impaired person, but forgot it was modified for my little buddy. She didn't know what the heck I was saying. LOL I really wanted to be a sign language interpretor once upon a time. I think it's great you do it with Max! Stacie

Ern said...

He'll talk when he figures out that other people don't always understand his signs.

Also, your enema post cracked me up! See, that's the nice thing about dogs and cats. I have never heard of a four-legger needing an enema.

Mama Duck said...

Great max interpretations of the signs.

All of The Duckling's signs were the same..."more"? Clapping. "Help"? Clapping.

Except for "hungry"...that was just a really long high picthed whine...which I guess isn't really a sign.

Cat said...

My friend Emilie and her sister Rachel produce the "Signing Times" videos, and their kids (Alex and Leah) do all the signing. They are SO cute! Leah is actually deaf, which is what inspired Emilie and her family to learn ASL, so the family could communicate with her. And let me tell you, Alex is one smart kiddo. He started reading at three, he plays the piano like a pro (he's 7!), and he helps teach his baby brother to sign.

Then again, his dad is a musical prodigy, his mother is an actress (voice), and his maternal grandfather is a world-famous composer, but STILL! It was the signing! I know it!

I am actually pretty dang jealous that signing wasn't a big "thing" when my kids were younger. I have incorporated the "Be quiet!" and the "Cut it OUT!" signs into my repertoire, however. Hmm. I don't know what that says about me as a mother. I'm thinking it isn't good...

Word verification: Kwtang!

Unknown said...

Don't worry about him not talking -- he'll get there. Our Buddy (nearly two years old now) started talking a little later than his sisters. The doc wanted to send him to a speech therapist -- Hubby and I chose to wait a little bit instead. Just in the past month, he's began using more and more words we can understand.

The Herrells said...

Hey Tammy - I have a suggestion about those tantrums.

My oldest daughter would throw terrible tantrums everywhere whenever it suited her - at home, at the mall, at Grandma's, at restaurants, etc.

I introduced her to "The Tantrum Rug". It was a small, easily moveable, crocheted rug. I told her that she could throw tantrums whenever she wanted and as loud as she wanted and I wouldn't mind but she could ONLY do it on the rug. I put the rug in her room. So whenever she wanted to throw a tantrum, she would go to her room and stand/sit/writhe on her rug. As if this wasn't great enough... if we were out in a public place and she looked as if she was going to throw a tantrum, I told her she couldn't do it because we didn't have her rug with us and she was going to have to wait until we got home. By the time we got home, the tantrum was forgotten.

Good luck to you. Tantrums are hell on everyone.

Effie said...

Hey if it works--I actually am a Sign Language Communicator and I think that's a wonderful idea to teach kids sign language! Now, how do you get him to speak? THat's a good question!

Can he do the sign for "dog"--that would be so cute to see him slap his leg then snap his fingers!

Lois Lane said...

It sounds like little Max is taking after his daddy. At least he has Lauren's good looks!
Lois Lane

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the talking. Studies actually show that learning sign helps speed spoken language aquisition. As he masters the spoken word, his sign for it will drop off. And those studies say kids who learn sign have higher IQs too. I'm an interpreter and teacher and I work with Deaf and hearing kids. Found you through RaisingLiam and love your site!

c said...

We used signs with both kids and it really did cut down the tantrums. One of my very good friends was born to deaf parents so ASL was her first language. Her kids learned sign and speech at the same time and were able to communicate really well with every family member quite early in age.

She taught us a bunch of signs, milk, please, thank you, juice, more, and apple among them.

My favorite was when my daughter would sign "more" and say "mow-ah" at the same time. Unbearably cute!

Unknown said...

Man I wish I had taught my kiddo signs. I still could, I suppose, but I'm lazy. He's very verbal but refuses to repeat me on command. Anyway no sign would prevent the tantrum he has started throwing anytime he sees a balloon in the store and I don't give it to him.

Susie said...

Oooh I see my Jodes found you. I was going to say what she did. It's funny because my mother keeps saying - what if he would rather sign than talk... Well all I know I he'd rather chant MamaMamaMama and follow me around the house than sign Mother.

Anonymous said...

So, what is the sign for "poop"?