Baby sign language all in the hands, say Moms

Classes bridging communication gap between babies, parents


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/04/2011 (4357 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Monica Sim didn’t realize she and her daughter would start so many conversations by being silent.

The pair enrolled in a sign language class for babies at Maples Community Centre earlier this spring. Six weeks later Sim’s one-year-old is turning people’s heads with her tiny digits.

“Baby signing is a conversation starter for sure. It’s rubbed off on a few friends and has been a hit at play dates,”Sim said. “People often stop and ask what they just saw my daughter do.”

Sim had known about baby sign language classes for some time but it wasn’t until she became pregnant that she decided to check out Little Signing Stars.

The program provides song and signing instruction to babies at a number of locations throughout Winnipeg, including St. James and St. Boniface.

Serena Yong, a Waverley West resident and mother of two, started the program more than a year ago. It offers basic American Sign Language, or ASL, to children up to the age of two.

Yong came up with the idea for the program while working as a teacher’s assistant at a local school where she assisted kids with cerebral palsy and autism who were unable to speak for themselves.

“I just saw signing as another side of comprehension,” she said.

After having her own children, Yong caught herself unintentionally signing to them.

“I found when I had my own kids it was just a natural thing to do,” she said.

Yong said having another way to communicate improves the level of understanding between parents and their young children.

 “Not only are you encouraging kids to be verbal, you are improving your communication with them,” she said, adding Signing Stars is not for children with a severe hearing impairment.

Yong said the program is meant to increase communication between babies and their parents while youngsters are still learning to communicate verbally.

“Signing helps…when kids can’t speak yet. It also boosts their confidence and self-esteem because they are communicating with mom and dad,” she said.

Sim said the program has definitely helped her to communicate better with her daughter.

“There is certainly less screaming and more interacting and we’re learning new words everyday,” she said.

Shannon Hood, who lives in La Salle, said she thinks the program will make a big difference for children like her daughter both now and in the future.

“This is such a different way to express themselves and a skill kids can carry forward for the rest of their lives,” she said. “It could spark a new learning interest just because she’s learned a different language.”
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