Signing time

learning how to talk
easy to take for granted
when you just don't know

With the wee one and the wee-er one, when it came to talking they both had that skill wrapped up pretty early. Particularly the wee one. You can go through the archives of this blog and read posts of me lamenting the fact that my tiny tot would never, ever hush. At home, at night, in the car, at the store, while he was eating, while he was playing, in the bath, getting dressed, at the dentist, walking to the mailbox… he never.stopped.talking.

The wee-er one was the same. Not quite as early as the wee one, but still early. And now, together, they create such a cacophony I want to record them both talking to me at once because some days it's just so funny. If not infuriating.

With those two, we had discussed teaching them some signs when they were tiny, but we never followed through. They talked so early, it wasn't really necessary. And I was afraid the signing would actually diminish their desire to talk.

This is another one of those things where it feels like the Universe was watching me, listening to me joke and complain. The a decision came down – I, the Universe, am going to give this mama the polar opposite of what she knows. I'm going to challenge her (wrong-headed) thoughts about signing. I'm going to give her a child who can't speak.

So here we are.

And early on, even knowing that the trach was going to limit Ike's ability to vocalize, I still resisted signing with him for a very long time. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I felt like I was capitulating somehow, giving up the fight that he would speak on time. Or maybe I was afraid that he would learn sign language and then never want to speak even when he could.

I know now that both of those ways of thinking were ridiculous. I think, too, they were ways for me to kind of continue this denial I had going on.

I'm over it now. And I hope that struggling through those phases of denial haven't delayed Ike's speaking even more. Because now that we've started signing with him in earnest, he is picking it up so quickly. I'm amazed everyday when he sits in his little chair for breakfast and immediately signs "chocolate".

When we strap him into his sleeping wedge, he signs "dog" so that someone will bring him his toy puppy.

He signs "milk" for everything. "Milk" is the go-to sign for "more" and "food" and "give me that". He's learning "yes" now, though, and "all done" so the pressure is off of the all-inclusive "milk" somewhat.

This morning, he was playing with his toy keys. We haven't learned a sign for "keys" yet, and instead of signing "milk" for them (which is something he would usually do), he made up his own sign. It looked a lot like "chocolate" which I took to mean he REALLY like his keys. But when I looked up the ASL sign for "keys" I saw that the hand movements are very similar to Ike's version of "chocolate."

How did he know that? Either he is sneaking onto my computer, or the sign for "keys" is very intuitive. Or his nurse taught him and I didn't know. Regardless, it was pretty stunning.

Everyday, he seems to pick up more and more, and when he sees that we recognize what he's saying, he gets even more excited. It's so sweet. Not only that, it's also helping him with his vocalization. He says "Hi" and "here" and every now and then we think we hear an "uh-oh". He's said "Georgia" once, which blew us all away.

It's so true that signing activates the same part of the brain as spoken language and I feel like an idiot for not working harder with him sooner, you know? But we're making up for lost time. He's picking up new signs everyday, it seems.

Seeing those hands move is every bit as encouraging and exciting as it is to hear your baby speak.

I really am in awe everyday.

11 thoughts on “Signing time

  1. Galledut university press has some lovely story books that have english and ASL sign on the same page. We used these for Eric when he was small, his older sister even learned to sign with these. As I recall Sesame Street work shop also has a series for little ones learning to sign. This was so last century for us but I am sure some of the books are still around.


  2. Yeah! It’s so exciting, right? Violet didn’t talk much, but signed like a fiend. It was so cool. Around 2 she started going to an MDO twice a week and started talking like crazy so she could play w/ the other kids.


  3. I just want to say that I have been reading your blog for about a year and a half and I really enjoy it. I’m not sure why I haven’t commented sooner:) I can so relate to what you are saying and I love the way you write. Keep up the good work Mama!


  4. don’t feel guilty about not signing! it will be fine. it’s a process, like everything else. the fact that he is picking up signing so quickly and um, INVENTING signs is a very good..well, sign. i am an SLP in training, I know these things. 🙂


  5. Hi! My name is Vanessa Habben and I am an instructor with the new Signing Time Academy ( I was contacted by a few of your blog followers (fellow Austin mommies) about signing with your son and wanted to see if I could be of any help.
    Also, I would love to send you a video. I’m sure you would find it both helpful and enjoyable for your entire family. You can reach me at
    Best wishes to you!


  6. Kari, I came to tell you about Singing Time too, but Vanessa beat me to it. The videos will be fun for all the kids and they pick it up very easily. It’s been a blast for my kids, though I am the hearing impaired one.


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