Handy guide to deciphering baby talk

Sign language gives youngsters a voice

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At seven months old, baby Colton could communicate his needs to his mom.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2015 (2696 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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At seven months old, baby Colton could communicate his needs to his mom.

Nicole Hacault doesn’t have ESP. She had been taking Colton to signing classes starting when he was three months old. Four months later, he was doing his first signs.

At 21 months, Hacault said Colton knows as many as 50 signs. Hacault said her “a ha moment” came while she watched another mom scramble to appease a screaming toddler, and she realized how rarely she has to guess what her son wants.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Serena Yong (right) reads with Colton and his mom, Nicole Hacault.

“There’s no crying, there’s no getting upset. There’s just communicating, that’s all,” she said. “…How shocking is it to be able to communicate with a seven-month-old?”

Serena Yong owns Little Signing Stars, and has offered sign-language classes for babies and toddlers since 2009.

“It’s really neat to see what they’re thinking,” Yong said. “Sometimes, you will totally not expect it.”

Yong said parents often tell stories of family walks where their baby will start signing “dog” or “airplane” minutes before adults notice barking or propellers, and remembered one little comedian who pulled off her sock and put it on her head while signing “hat.”

“Like a little joke,” Yong said. “She couldn’t even talk (yet) …and then she just laughed.”

Yong offers classes for newborns to two-year-olds. At first, the youngest babies can’t sign at all, and classes are more for parents to learn the signs and how to teach their children gradually. Between six months and 12 months, she said, babies begin to use the signs themselves.

“It’s cool, but it also reduces frustration. If they’re able to communicate, they feel proud, it boosts their self esteem, they feel good about it,” Yong said, adding the ability to sign reduces temper tantrums that arise when kids can’t tell parents what they want.

At the end of the month, Yong will release her first two books, written to help parents and kids communicate using sign language.

Yong said babies can “read” her books, signing along with the pictures on each page. One book, Daily Routines, follows the most useful signs in a baby or toddler’s day-to-day life. The other, Favourite Signs, lists the 11 most popular signs babies use.

All proceeds from the books will be donated to the family of Faith Konitz, a three-year-old Winnipeg girl recovering from a kidney transplant in California.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Serena Yong runs Little Signing Stars, a baby and toddler sign language course. Serena has published two books to help parents teach their kids sign language.

This week, Konitz said she and her husband found out Faith may have sustained a brain injury during the transplant.

“Her kidney is working awesome, but she’s still very sick.”

Konitz said she started taking Faith to signing classes for fun as a baby, but when doctors discovered Faith was deaf, the program “took on a whole new meaning,” and gave Faith and her family a “jumping point” to learn American Sign Language.

As for standing in a room full of signing babies, Konitz said, “It’s really fun.” Yong teaches signs through music, like a sing-along.

“It’s really cute to see them signing all the little songs,” Konitz said.

 

aidan.geary@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:13 AM CDT: Replaces photo

Updated on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:21 AM CDT: Adds sidebar

Updated on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:41 AM CDT: Adds video

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