While still pregnant with Naima, I took advantage of the free use of our local library and stocked up on parenting, breastfeeding and pregnancy books. Among the books I encountered was Baby signs by Linda Acredolo. I was quite intrigued since the idea of a baby who can communicate her needs/wants even without saying a word was totally new. Aside from this novelty, I also wanted to learn signing because Stan’s brother was deaf and I wanted to be able to communicate with him properly – instead of spelling out every word by signing the letters or texting my message.
After shopping around in Ebay, I finally settled on buying this Joseph Garcia kit. It was informative – yes! – but really boring. I think I watched it about 3 times before I tuned out. I tried read the book, sticking the reference guide on our wall – but nothing helped me remember the signs.
I eventually came across a local baby signing class – Baby Lingo, run by Jaymie Pizarro. Stan and I joined a class in August 2008 – together with Naima’s yaya and Naima. Naima was about 8 months then. Prior to this class, we had been practicing only 3 signs with Naima – milk, more and eat. The class was informative – there were hand-outs you can use and the pictures showing young Pinoy kids were inspiring. However, what I didn’t like was that Jaymie used and taught some signs that were different from American Sign Language – for example dog.
My brother in law was trained with American Sign Language. There are Filipino Sign Language classes being taught locally but I wanted to learn ASL – and I wanted Naima to learn ASL since our purpose for learning was not only for her to communicate her needs/wants to us but also for her (and me) to be able to communicate with Stan’s brother.
Shortly after the Baby Lingo class, Naima’s signing vocabulary expanded. I think it was also because we were signing more often with her and her yaya was also more confident and likewise signed. Here she is signing book at about 9 months.
We continued using the signs and even when Naima started talking, she was still using the signs along with words. Some naysayers told me that signing will delay language development but research and our actual experience showed otherwise.
In December of 2009, I was able to purchase this Baby Signing Time Set by Rachel Coleman and it was a hit – not only with Naima but with my then 4.5 year old nephew Julian. Naima’s signing vocabulary increased 3x while Julian also learned how to sign. I found the Rachel Coleman series very engaging and entertaining. Until now, Naima uses signs when she wants to emphasize something or when she can’t talk (e.g. mouth full or nursing) at the moment.
For parents, I would highly recommend that you invest time and effort in learning and teaching signs to your baby. It doesn’t mean that you have the spend money to buy videos or join classes. A lot of the information is available online. You can access the Youtube versions of Sign2Me, Signing Time, My Smart Hands, My Baby Can Talk, WeeHands and Kindermusik. I’m also a fan of Signing Time’s in Facebook and they regularly upload videos of new signs to learn.
Part II with list of local baby signing classes is HERE.