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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • With our first child, we started signing with him at about seven months. It was very effective: he picked up the signs quickly, and was able to become an effective communicator. We didn't use all that many signs (let's see... food, milk, water, more, please, thank you, help, mommy, daddy... I think that's it), and by the time he was 12 months or so he started replacing the signs with English. He doesn't use them any more, by the time he was 18 months his English vocabulary far outweighed his ability to sign (occasionally he'll sign for "please" while saying it, as a kind of "pretty please.")

    In some part I attribute his taking to the signs as a reflection of how desperate he was to communicate with us. As a wee lad he had colic, and so he lived much of his early life in pain. Communication about that was very helpful for him, and it taught him the value of the "feedback loop."

    My daughter (second born) is a different story. We started trying to teach her signs around seven months as well, and by eight months she was clearly understanding the signs. But she wouldn't do them. Not at all. Not even if we sat with her and demanded she signed what she wanted (as an alternative to whining and pointing.) Not even if we sat for twenty minutes like that. She was so amazingly stubborn she refused to do it, and the lack of communication didn't frustrate her at all.
    After twelve months, she started signing - only most of the signs were of her own creation. (She used the signs for "please", "thank you", and "food", but little else.) She became SO effective at making up highly understandable signs that she was not motivated to learn more English. Even worse, sometimes she would learn to speak a word, then /replace it/ with a sign and refuse to use the word any more. (At 24 months now, she still refuses to say "banana" despite having used the word at 18 months.) She is very effective at communicating simple things non-verbally, and even people other than my wife and myself can understand what she's trying to say with her cues. Fortunately, she's finally become frustrated with her inability to make more complex sentences out of signs and has starting using more words. (She's pretty far behind where my son was on diction at this age though, since she hasn't really been practicing!)

    All this to say, signing can work wonders for some kids, and not amount to a hill of beans with others. We will assuredly try to teach our third signing when the time comes, but we have no idea the outcome.
    • We have a girl on the way (90% certain from the ultrasound) and it will be interesting to see how she does.

      I've read that girls learn language faster and develop fine motor skills earlier in general to boys and my wife's experience as a teacher agrees with this for the most part.

      We try to use ASL but have fallen short on a couple occasions, mostly because we didn't look up the sign. My son basically signs "all done" for toast because when the toaster oven dings we would say the toast is all done and I thin