My Signing Time Story: 2 Daughters + Signing = Happy Family

Guest blog post by Megan McWilliams, Norfolk, NE

As a full-time working mother of a 9 month old daughter, I desperately wished that Adalia could talk to me. Communicate anything, please. One day I read in a parenting magazine that babies could sign before they could talk. I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try, so I began teaching myself some American Sign Language vocabulary through online video dictionaries. I then taught my daughter and my husband. The frustration between Adalia and I immediately started to decrease as our ability to communicate increased.

We all learned the signs for more, please, thank you, all done, cheese, mom, and dad – but then I felt stumped. What signs should we learn next? What signs would be useful for my now 20 month old daughter? I did some research and found the Signing Time series. I ordered 3 DVDs (Volumes 4, 5, and 6). We received them in the mail just in time to take them on our week-long trip to visit my husband who was on a job assignment out of state. As my husband worked during the day, Adalia and I watched our new Signing Time DVDs between playing with Play-Doh, going to the park, and playing with bubbles. I was hooked! I loved, loved, loved the music and the fact that not only did Rachel teach the main signs during the show, but she signed even more words as she sang her songs. Adalia picked up on these extra signs before I did,  so she kept me challenged as I tried to keep up with her signs and figure out what she was signing. I knew that Adalia really enjoyed the songs because she requested them frequently – and would frequently sing them at the top of her lungs!

When we found out we were expecting our next daughter, Delaney, I asked my husband if we would teach her to sign, too. He answered, “Why wouldn’t we?” One of Delaney’s first signs was BOOK. When she spoke the word it sounded like “ba, ba, ba, ba.” Good thing she was also able to sign, or we might have thought she was constantly asking for her bottle or a ball. She still loves having books read to her. She also used to say “guk.” Without her ability to sign, it would have taken me quite a while to figure out that “guk” was MILK! We have also used signing to promote turn taking, sharing, and manners with our girls. Now that my girls are 2 and 4 years old, we have transitioned into using the manual signed alphabet to learn our letters, the sounds of the letters, and even some short words.
In October of 2010, I became a certified Signing Time Academy Instructor. Since that time, I have been able to share my excitement about using signs with young children through Signing Story Times at our local library, a sign and play class, and a parent/caregiver workshop at the local hospital. I was amazed at the success the participants of my 2-night workshop had in just the one week between classes. One mom told me that her 9 month old daughter began to sign MILK during that week. Another one of the participants, who honestly admitted she was at the workshop because her boss made her come, came back the next week with pictures to show me that she had taken to add to her signing photo book. I am glad that I’ve been able to start sharing the joy of signing with young children to my community as an Instructor and can’t wait to see where it will lead me next.