Signing with Children who have Special Needs

For children with physical, mental or developmental delays, signing can facilitate communication, reduce frustration and promote confidence in their own abilities. Signing can empower them to express their wants and needs, and can help to develop speech.

Signing with Children who have Special Needs

For children with physical, mental or developmental delays, signing can facilitate communication, reduce frustration and promote confidence in their own abilities. Signing can empower them to express their wants and needs, and can help to develop speech.

Watch for Signs

Most signs don’t look exactly right since children adapt signs to their physical abilities. That is one of the fun things about Signing Time—you can see children of all abilities making signs. Signing is a great way to encourage the development of fine motor and speech skills.

Encourage

Encourage any attempts your child makes to communicate with praise and positive reinforcement. If you think it is a sign, say: “Oh, you’re sign- ing MILK. Do you want some MILK?” Continue to make your signs correctly and your child will understand. Likewise, you will come to recognize signs that he adapts to his ability. Communication is the goal, not perfect signing.

Use the Signs Frequently and Consistently

Learn signs for words you use daily, or watch for signs that your child seems interested in while watching Signing Time. Use these signs every time you say the word.

Talk to Your Child

Signing doesn’t mean being silent. When you want to com- municate, look at your child and make eye contact. Make the sign directly in your child’s line of sight so he can see your eyes, the sign, and your mouth. Then, speak with your child, emphasizing the words you
are signing. For example, you might say, “Do you WANT some MORE BANANAS?”

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Be Patient

It could take a while before you see your child signing back to you. Don’t give up! He will sign when he is ready. Watch for other physical responses or movements that show he understands what you are signing.

Rachel Coleman’s daughter, Lucy, who has cerebral palsy and spina bifida, had no signs and no words for two long years. After continued exposure to speech and ASL, she had a language explosion.

By age four, her speech and sign vocabulary was far beyond what anyone predicted, and too extensive to measure. She is now in a mainstream classroom – something doctors never thought possible years prior. Your child is a miracle in the making, and some miracles just take time!