Jake’s Fingers-AAAAAA(SignLanguage)Happy Face

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?

Jake: aaaaaaaaaaaAAAaaaaaaaaa

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!

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19 Responses to Jake’s Fingers-AAAAAA(SignLanguage)Happy Face

  1. Joseph Echevarria says:

    Perhaps those of use your readers can pitch in a little if need be? I can’t afford much, but $5 donated is $5 you don’t have to worry about removing from another part of your budget. Please let us know how much it is. Okay?

  2. I’ve had a lot of formal study on the issue of teaching sign language to children and babies. I believe that it actually aids in language developement (especially for deaf kids). But either way, it certainly aids in a smoother life for child and mom, and that’s always a positive! So glad it’s working well for you. 🙂

  3. Becky says:

    Yay for baby sign! We loved it!

  4. Laura Jane says:

    I second what Joe says. Also, I’d like to say that the term “Therapy Snacks” is intriguing to me. Just a fun combination of words!

  5. Sasha says:

    I agree you need to do what is right for your family period and it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say! We taught Dominik sign language along with speaking the words at the same time and to this day he still signs and says all done after every meal! You are doing what you need to for your family and that is all that matters, stay focused on that and don’t let anyone pressure or guilt you!
    Hugs to you, Jake and that Dude your married to :)!!

  6. Ruth says:

    Seriously…you just described my day right now……………………I don’t want to sign about it…i want to lay down and yell…but i bet my co-workers would rather I learned to sign….lol 🙂 I want a Quack,Quack!

  7. cheekypinky says:

    I vote for donating, too!

    And therapy snacks.

    In the form of Cheetos.

    (‘s okay, Jake. Auntie Becca will take care of those scary orange-colored things for you. *glomp*)

    • He ate a Cheeto in therapy! Becky and I almost cried. It was amazing and made us laugh at the things we are triumphing over. I never thought that getting to get my kid to eat Cheetoes would be a triumph. 🙂

  8. Leisa Klinge says:

    So glad he likes the duck – he was so stinking cute kissing it on the beak-lips with a loud “smack”.

  9. Dyann says:

    I have a lot to say about this post.

    #1–I’d like to see the studies that the against-sign-language parents read about, because I’ve only seen and heard of positive results. The fact is, children who are taught sign language have earlier-developed language synapses in their brains. My daughter had a 300-word/sign vocabulary when the age appropriate average was supposedly 30. I thought it was normal, but others assured me that she wasn’t. She also started sounding out words when she was 3. I say sign.

    #2–I love Love LOVE your varied and colorful description of relating a grown-up world to your little dude. So funny and so relatable!

    #3–Yay for forward motion with therapy snacks, and yay for cheetos!!!!

    #3a–Only because I forgot this one, and want to stay in quasi-chronological order–I, too, have noticed that things make in the name of medicine are crazy overpriced. Would a miniature-sized wet suit do anything similar?

    #4–I love the name Gak-Gak. I love the sweet smile. I love that he loves his Gak-Gak. I love that he makes out with his soft friend. I love it.

    #5–I love Joe’s idea, too. $5 is $5, and it adds up if it’s multiplied by a few.

    #6–Great post, girl!

    • So, I wrote this great reply, hit enter and it disappeared. Boo! I basically said that you are amazing, I love you, and that the parents who are down on sign language probably had verbally stellar children and they never had to think about stuff like this. Anyway, praying for you and your crazy life, too. Love you.

  10. Dyann says:

    PS–And how come the comments are all dated March 10? Are we all posting in the future? I know we’re not in the same time zone, but I don’t think you’re THAT far ahead of me.

  11. Mom says:

    sounds like time to take up a collection! I will donate. I just want to reach out through the computer and give that sweet baby a hug and kiss!

  12. Brenda says:

    Mary, sounds like you need one of those PayPal link thingies … I’d send five bucks too.

    The more I’ve found out about our family’s sensory issues, the more it makes sense why so many of my days feel dangerously close to the adult version you’re describing. (Stirring a little ADHD into the mix means that I actually DO end up with more than the requisite amount of dropped, lost, and poo-covered items than most people in the course of a normal day.) Excellent description, and I’ll be passing this on to a few other parents I know!

    (Also, I think I need a Gak Gak.)

  13. Fantastic post!

    I’m a gal who has a 9yr-old son who was in Breda’s Peter’s WESD class for both years.

    My son did not speak a WORD except purple ONE TIME through Speech therapy from the age of 2 1/2 at Easter Seals. Finally on the 2nd to last day of WESD pre-school he said “Cri…” and on the final day, said “Christian during bye-bye circle time. The Mommies and teachers there erupted with joy!

    He started shouting single words in our car ride home that day… Shari’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, PT Cruiser, Mini-Cooper, Ford, etc.

    It was SO wild! I immediately called my husband, started weeping, and held up my cell on speaker so my husband could hear. He started weeping too…

    Our son could finally talk!

    His first spontaneous sentence was, “Daddy’s making coffee!” My husband thought someone else was in the living room because, that was surely not OUR child.

    Unfortunately, I was in the bathroom and missed the entire thing.

    After that, he was reading out-loud all summer long harder books than Dr. Suess and TALKING! Started with A LOT of echolalia, but spontaneous sentences too.

    Anyway… these are the three major things I did to get him verbal… most of it exhausting work… but well worth it!

    (1) After much family and friend debate for over a year, I DID teach simple signs for communication like it sounds like you are doing. Unlike your son with the “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,” I lived with completely silent boy who only smiled, cried, and laughed – prior to signing.

    I say to hell what everyone’s opinions are on the subject, YOU are the parent and YOU will decide what is right for your son. If I had NOT been pressured by my Mom to NOT do it through my sister telling her that it would delay his speaking because it delayed the speaking of her girl friend’s child.

    I WOULD have started sign probably two years earlier. That was THE LAST TIME I let others dictate what I should do. No more!

    (2) Bought the entire set of Baby Bumble Bee – Bee Smart DVDs for teaching him words, vocabulary. To-date they are THE most important purchase we ever made. I am convinced that they taught him nearly ALL of his vocabulary.

    While he WAS parked in-front of our TV at least two hours a day, he was absolutely LEARNING all of those words. Highly recommend spending the several hundred dollars for them. Some libraries to carry them, but many only have a few of them. If you choose to use them, having them all is excellent as you can do an easier rotation. Sometimes you can find the set on Ebay. I was able to find a set for a friend that way. I would recommend checking their first. Here is the link: http://www.babybumblebee.com/I_landings/Birth_to_1.cfm

    (3) Have two-sided conversations with him while you are driving around. Converse like he can talk. Say something like… “Hey Christian! Look at the sunshine!” and then say, “You could say, ‘can we go to the park?” “And then I say, ‘I think that’s a GREAT idea Christian!” “And you could say, ‘great mommy’ I LOVE the park.” “And I say, “which park should be go to?” “And you can say, ‘how about Riverfront Park with the carousel.” “And I say, GREAT! The Carousel is fun, isn’t it.” “And you could say, ‘yes I LOVE the carousel.” I will not lie… this is exhausting, but when he started to talk I had taught him HOW to converse with me.

    Car rides were an excellent time to do this. And we were in the car A LOT! With three therapies going… speech, Occupational, and vision for us… plus as many as community activities I could throw at him, Mommy & Me music class, Instrument playing class, private swimming lessons from the age of 2, gymnastics, dance, AWANA, etc.

    We were full-up with activity. Never a dull moment then. But I was told we had a window until he was 7yrs old to shove it all in. For us, we moved into an apt. for five years to make this work. And he is an only child. His getting-up-to-speed was priority #1.

    Praying for you for your journey… Make sure you have great self-care for YOU too… While you may feel like you’re on a crazy treadmill of therapy, activity, and learning all you can, you must take time out for YOU to avoid burn-out and depression.

    Brenda’s friend,

    ~ Dana
    Joel’s Wife & Christian’s Mommy!

    • Dana, what an amazing story! It made my heart ache for you and encouraged me all at the same time. I have been working on the two sided conversation thing with Jake and I’m sure only time will tell if it’s helping. And, thank you for the reminder to take care of myself. That was the thing that pushed me towards finding a support group and going to our ladies bible study at church. And trying to be more consistent about running all by myself when my husband offers me the chance!

  14. Kiert says:

    I read something when Benj was tiny that I have always held onto for parenting. It works for the sign language debate. I’d post the actual quotation, but it seems someone has borrowed my book & not returned it. 🙂 So, here goes my best summary:

    When we tell our children what NOT to do, we also need to provide them with an appropriate alternative behavior. Telling them “no, don’t do that” without telling them “do this instead” is like spanking a dog that goes potty in the house but not leading him out to the yard. In fact, this is how God treats His children: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” When we teach our kids what TO do, in addition to what NOT to do, we are providing them with the “way out.”

    Like you, I am not ok with being verbally accosted by my own progeny, even if they are just trying to communicate. This is why I taught my kids to sign.

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