Ben knows many, many signs. I really should make a list. I know he's got more than 100 words, but I haven't bothered writing them all down. Maybe he has 200! Or not. :)
For a long time, it seemed that Ben would rarely begin a conversation himself. He would respond to questions (ex. "Would you like something to eat?") with appropriate signs ("banana," "eat," etc.). He clearly understood what we asked, but he rarely made the first move.
Lately, he is using sign language more effectively - and he is initiating conversations.
When we were sitting in the living room on Friday, Ben pointed out the window and signed "outside. slide." Of course, it was 32 degrees, so I told him that we could not go slide outside, but I loved that he requested something that wasn't food or Signing Time.
If I'm attempting to put him in his crib (and he doesn't want to go to bed), he will point at the door to the bedroom, signing "Go. Please. More."
He signs "book" when he's ready for storytime. He will often sit with a book and sign all the words to himself.
Corrie loves to play with Ben, but she often provokes him. They will play in some rough and tumble way, and he will communicate his displeasure by grunting. She won't stop, and then he responds by pushing her. Now it is not right for Ben to push or hit, but I can see how it
frustrates him when he is "telling" her to stop and she continues the
behavior. We have had several conversations about how Corrie and Evan have to pay
attention to the ways Ben communicates - even if he doesn't have spoken
words yet. Well, the other day, she was messing with Ben, and he
grunted a couple of times, then he stopped, looked at her very
deliberately, and signed emphatically, "STOP." It was great to see him
use a sign at the right time, in the right context. And she knew what
I hope and expect that Ben will learn to talk. He can make lots of noises (you should hear him when he "talks" on the phone) and he moves his lips into the appropriate places for sounds (Mmm, Bbb, Ppp), but he hasn't managed to connect the sounds with the lips yet. He just got tubes in his ears, so I'm hoping that we'll see an improvement in his speech. I don't hear him use many consonants, and I wonder if that has to do with his hearing or fluid in his ears.
Lately, I've been thinking about preschool. Ben turns three this summer, and he will start preschool in the fall. In my ideal world, he will attend a local church-based preschool 2-3 mornings a week, and go to the public preschool the other 2-3 mornings. I have great confidence in Ben's ability to be part of both preschools. His receptive language is on track for his age, so he should do fine following directions for circle time, songs, crafts, etc.
I'm not sure how preschool will work with Ben's signs. I want him to be able to communicate with the other kids and teachers, and the best way for him to do that right now is through sign. However, I also want him to talk. I wonder how that transition from signing to speaking works. We use sign and speech together, so I'm hopeful that he will do the same thing - learn to say the word while he makes the sign.
I spoke with a mom of a teen with Down syndrome the other day. Her child has wonderful speech, but even so, the mom said that that her daughter will sometimes get frustrated because she will think the words faster than she can say them.
It is easy to think of speech as an indicator of intelligence, but I begin to understand that it is not. Low muscle tone and poor motor planning can create a physical barrier between the words in the head and the words that come out of the mouth.
I want Ben to be able to communicate in a meaningful way. Right now, he does.