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Why Parents Love Sign Language for Kids with Special Needs

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
02/21/18  9:17 AM PST
sign language for kids

Why Parents Love Sign Language for Kids with Special Needs

Our local Down syndrome association offered a free “Baby Signs” class when my son was just entering his language development stage, so I thought it would be a great addition to spoken language in order to support the development of his communication. He picked right up on it, and we enjoyed giving him the skills to tell us when he wanted to eat, drink, take a bath or wanted more of anything.

Language development has been tricky for my boys with Down syndrome, and sign language was just the first of many tools we have added to our toolbox, and by far the most enduring. We have since attempted to use a picture system called PECS, a few different free and paid apps on the tablets our kids used. We’ve also attempted to obtain an assistive device. Unfortunately, this was out of reach financially when our medical insurance provider denied coverage for the device because our son’s speech diagnosis was deemed a developmental, rather than a medical diagnosis.

We keep coming back to sign language, which we love first and foremost because of the ease of use.

From a very early age our children were able to approximate signs, which gave them a voice before their speech developed. Portability was another huge advantage. We found that taking devices with us or trying to get our children to use a tablet to clarify what they wanted to say without playing a game with it was an awful lot of work for only a little benefit.

We started using signs at mealtimes, which seemed like a good and natural place for us since children need food several times a day. We got a book with the basic signs, and then found a YouTube channel to see just how to do each sign. We would use the signs when we said the words “eat”, “drink”, “more” and “all done”. Then we helped the kids use them hand over hand until they got the hang of it. After getting the hang of meals we branched out into daily activities like ”sleep” and ”bath” and added family names and titles.

We kept an eye out for more Baby Signs classes to keep our skills fresh, to meet other parents using signs and to add to our signing vocabulary. It was always enjoyable to attend the classes, even when we didn’t need to learn any more signs.

We expected sign language to be a bridge that would start our children on a path to communication, and then fade out of our lives, but instead it has been a staple in our lives for over 10 years.

The boys still use it to clarify what they’re saying, and we use it to double check that we understand correctly. That communication bridge we built has been tried and true, and used more than we ever dreamed.


Sign Language for Kids

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom

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