ASL leads to talking miracle for child with Down syndrome

Excerpt from “Television show leads to talking miracleby Susan Jones of the St. Albert Gazette featuring Signing Time Academy Instructor Shelley Wywal.

Photo by April Bartlett of the St. Albert Gazette

When Elora was born, her parents were told their new infant could have a severe language disability. The baby was kept in the hospital for a week because of the Down syndrome and Wywal remembers visiting with countless specialists, who bombarded her with information. “There were speech specialists and this specialist and that specialist, and they all said she would have a severe language delay,” Wywal said. The first day she brought seven-day-old Elora home, the exhausted young mother sat in front of the television to rock and nurse her baby. She began flipping channels and for some reason stopped to watch and listen to Signing Time. Perhaps she was intrigued by the show because she had previously heard that some families were using baby signing with their infant children, but she didn’t really believe in the concept of teaching babies sign language and she thought it would be too difficult to learn American Sign Language (ASL). “I watched my first episode as I nursed Elora, and by the end of it, I had learned to sign the colours of the rainbow,” Wywal recalled. That one stunning half-hour television program caused Wywal and her husband to study ASL. Immediately afterwards, whenever they talked to Elora, they paired the spoken word with signed words. “We chose words that would have meaning to her — key words. I learned I talked too much so I had to learn to narrow it down to simple words, like ‘milk,’” she said. When she was 10 months old, Elora signed her first word, “milk.”

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