Signing Time and Down Syndrome: A Mother’s Perspective

When we received the diagnosis of Down Syndrome after my son Robert was born we were inundated with information.  One piece of advice that was given to us was to accept that he would not hit his milestones along with other children, but he would get there eventually on his own time. At 6 months of age he started at his Early Intervention Center, and they stressed the importance of sign language. We are so grateful that we started this right away. He was able to use signs before many of the other kids were talking. He could share with us when he wanted to “eat”, “drink”, or if he needed “more”. By signing we avoided many meltdowns that can occur when a child is not being understood.

Around the time Robert turned four, the first Signing Time DVDs were released. Before then, we only had one VHS tape that was geared towards adults. From the first moment of putting on “My First Signs” Robert was hooked.  He was immediately engaged by the music, colorful backgrounds and, most importantly, Leah and Alex. Here were kids, using sign language! I also enjoyed it as a Mom. Kids’ music can get a little silly, but Rachel has a knack for writing music that is enjoyable to parents.  “In A House” and “Shine” are two of my favorites.

Robert is now 12 and still using a combination of sign language, limited verbal words and a communication device to get his point across. He has spent his school years in a public school in a general education setting. We have been so fortunate to be at a school where they welcomed us in and let us teach his classmates sign language, starting in Kindergarten. Signing Time products have been a huge hit with the students. Robert loves to show his friends “Silly Pizza Song”. His friends love learning sign language along with him using the DVDs. I love that Signing Time keeps coming out with new products and keeps them to a theme!

Our family enjoys signing so much that at the beginning of the summer my youngest son, Max asked “Why don’t you teach sign language?”  I have thought of this over the years but once he mentioned it I logged on to Signing Time and much to my delight saw the posting for becoming a Signing Time Academy Instructor! By the end of the summer my “Starter Kit” arrived in the mail.  Robert could not contain himself. He thought the package was an early birthday/Christmas gift for him. To celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month I will be teaching my first class, starting on October 4th with my son Robert as my assistant.

Signing Time has made the process of learning a second language fun for all! I’m so glad this was introduced to us early on.


Teri Voorhes

Mom to two wonderful boys Robert (12-DS) and Max (10-Asperger’s)

Pacifica, CA

11 thoughts on “Signing Time and Down Syndrome: A Mother’s Perspective”

  1. Dear Teri, Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. Sounds like you and Robert will be having a terrific time as Signing Time Instructors. Good luck!

  2. I thank God for people like my sister Teri and my nephew Robert.What a great resource for all families.I run a home daycare and have had several babies be able to communicate with sign language before they could speak.Really cuts down on the frustration level especially with special needs kids and preverbal 18 month olds.Thanks to all of you who are making this happen

  3. Teri, I am so proud of you !! your letter is full of helpful info as well. I know Robert must be beaming with pride….As am I.

  4. Bob and Jean Ryan

    What an exciting journey we have all had. In our desire to communicate with Robert every one of our family has picked up at least the rudiments of ASL and it has made
    our relationship with Robert richer and deeper than it ever could have been. You know you will always have the support of two people who are truly proud of you ….

    Mom and Dad (Buddies and Grampa)

  5. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Robert but he sounds like a fabulous little man and you have all done a great job with him. This is truly an inspirational story…

  6. WTG Teri! Your story is very inspirational and uplifting. Signs DO help with communicating and your son is living proof.

    I love watching the Signing Time videos too BTW!

  7. Sign language and signingtime in particulat have been monumental in my daughter Caroline’s development. She started watching the vhs of My First Signs when she was six months and she too was able to communicate at a very young age. Today she is 9 and still loves the DVD’s! Caroline is able to read and I credit the signing time VHS and DVD’s for that. Very early on she was able to see a picture of the object the written word and a sign. I believe this mulitfaceted learning approach taught her language and it’s symbols! EVERY child can benefit from these DVDs!

  8. Teri,
    I hope your students know how lucky they are to have you and Robert as Signing Time instructors. Your journey inspires me daily.

  9. Teri,

    I am in awe of your willingness to reach beyond the limitations of Robert. You are an inspiring model for teaching the maxim of “becoming what we can by doing what we must.”

    Judy Ticehurst

  10. Love your article!!!!! My Noah (DS) is 5-1/2 and we just now FINALLY bought him his first Signing Times DVD. Our whole family is having a blast watching it – even my husband – it’s a great, nonthreatening way for him to pick up the signs we’ve been learning during the day while he is at work. It is so encouraging to be reminded that this investment we’re making in learning sign language now will continue to pay off throughout Noah’s lifetime. It is so great to be able to give him a voice.


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