There is a lot of (ahem) discussion amongst parents of young children on the subject of teaching your small person sign language prior to talking. The against sign language group says that teaching your child to sign will delay speech significantly. The other side believes that children should be given an acceptable way to communicate prior to speech. I believe that sign language falls into the grey area of parenting and that each set of parents should decide what’s right for their child, and quite possibly, leave the rest of the parenting world the crap alone about it.
For us, teaching Jake to sign was not only the right thing to do, but quite possibly the only way to remain sane. Let me give you an example of our communciation with Jake before and after teaching him a few basic signs.
Snack time prior to sign language
Jake (munch, munch): aaaaaaaaaaaaa
Me: What’s up?
Me: Do you want more?
Jake (kicking his tray): AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAa
Me: Um, okay. Here’s some more. (dumps cheerios on the tray)AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Sweetie, I don’t know what you need.AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Stop making that noise!AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Jake!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Okay, we’re just going to be done! AAAAAAAAAAAAAA…
I’m pretty sure that he did take a breath, sometimes.
Snack time after teaching Jake to sign:
Jake (munch, munch): aaaaa
Me: What do you need? More? Or, all done?
Jake (gives appropriate sign for “all done”)
Me: Okay! All done!
Jake: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Maybe it’s just me, but I rather enjoy the second alternative. The point I am trying to make is that Jake is already communicating, but since words are coming very slow for him, he was getting very frustrated and that frustration was coming out in anger. Even if teaching him to sign does delay his speech by a little bit, I’d rather have a happy mama and a happy kid calmly communicating with each other than turning Jake and I both into raving lunatics.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jake feels when his senses are overloaded. He gets so stressed out, angry, frustrated and that often quickly turns to despair. It is very hard to understand as an adult, so I’ve come up with a scenario that might help understand Jake a little better.
You are at work after only sleeping a few hours the night before because of your neighbor’s barking dog, you are wearing your itchiest sweater and your crawliest underpants, you’ve had a rock in your shoe all day, a papercut in the joint of your thumb, you have to stay late to clean up your co-worker’s mess, your windshield gets cracked by a rock on the way home, as you get out of the car, you drop your keys into a pile of dog poo, it starts to pour down rain and by the time you get to your door, you are drenched, smell of poo, and are plain fed up. You might be forgiven for throwing your hands up and collapsing on the couch to have a good cry.
I think that’s how my Jake feels when he can’t figure something out, something is touching him that stresses him out, or he’s just plain overloaded by his overactive senses.
I have seen a marked turn in his ability to cope, but I know we still have a long way to go. Which is really, really okay.
Today, Jake’s therapy appointment went really well. Even though Jake told Becky to “Go Way!” and called her “silly”, he tasted, bit AND crunched a pretzel. He did the same with a cheeto and that is the very first time he has ever taken a food from the table to completely eating it, with bites and everything. So great!
We’ve gotten the approval to move forward with his physical therapy and even though it will be a few weeks before we actually start. This week I need to figure out what we need to do to get Jake a tiny compression suit (a Benik vest). I haven’t even started the process of looking and I’m hoping they aren’t too expensive. It’s basically a bunch of neoprene sewn together, but when something is sewn together in the name of medicine, the manufacturers feel like they can charge you quadruple the price. But, we’ll do what we need to do to get one for him. Within just a few minutes of putting it on, Jake’s stance narrows dramatically and he seems happier and more comfortable with his environment. (Maybe I need one, too!) It’s soft enough for him to wear underneath his clothes so he won’t get stared at, which, let’s face it, will only traumatize ME at the moment. He will just think everyone is admiring his cool suit and thinking about how much they want one too. 🙂
This coming week, we’ll be adding different colors of applesauce, jicama, and painting with ranch dressing to his therapy snacks. And hey, maybe he’ll continue to eat his junk food! Woohoo!
Now for something just cute and happy.
This is Jake with “Gak Gak” (his version of “quack quack”). Jake LOVES Gak Gak, I think mostly because Gak Gak is very soft and not overpowering for him. I hear him kissing and hugging Gak Gak and it seems to soothe Jake. I’m all for that!