What we did and when we did it. Sometimes.

What we did and when we did it. Sometimes. People, places and events to remember.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thoughts on Sign Language, Speech and Communication

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 he meant.

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.


  1. what a cutie! go ben and his signs!

  2. One thing I regret with Brady and his signing was never actually writing down the signs that he knew! I did roughly count once, but now I don't know what those exact signs were. I did take videos of me "quizzing" him on a few and I love looking back at those!!

    Go Ben! Sign language is amazing and saved us sooo much frustration (overall).

  3. ht is the amazing almost magical thing about sign. I am so grateful for it, too!

  4. I agree with signing....my sister has never been able to talk really. She says things that are incomprehensible yet there is purpose and meaning to what she is saying as she gets frustrated when we dont understand her...unfortunately she was taught minimal signing and we dont always know what those signs are...way to care for Ben! He is a very privileged son.

  5. You know Owen's speech story and that is his primary mode of communication. The one thing we have done to help his team out is make a video (and sometimes we have to do several takes and clip them together!) of Owen showing his signs so they know what to look for. His team is actually quite good and helping him engage with other students and showing them his signs. I'm sure Ben's preschool will be able to work with you on this.

    It's so great to hear that Ben is initiating in conversation......it's so fun, isn't it?!!

  6. So excited to hear that Ben is initiating communication with signs! Those were our best ways to communicate when Jack was little also. Strange, how reading your blog just reminds me so much of the days when I longed for Jack to be able to talk to me (and now Daddy says, "He just doesn't ever stop talking, does he?"! Apraxia acts in many of the same ways you describe...Jack could always understand receptively exactly what we meant and asked, but he just couldn't verbally communicate it...so frustrating, but I believe like you that he WILL one day be able to speak with spoken words. With Jack, we tried and did everything (as I know you guys are also doing) and I think it came down to a combination of wonderful speech and occupational therapists, and perhaps even some of the manual therapy helped for Jack as well. As David and I have commented often, we will probably never know exactly what it was that "unlocked" Jack's brain that allowed him to start using his voice. I will keep your sweet family in my prayers, and btw your plan about pre-school sounds wonderful! We had 4-5 days of pre-school at age 3, and it was wonderful for Jack-I just requested a meeting with his teachers before he started, and educated them on Jack's special needs and the best ways to handle communication with him...many of his teachers were already really great at signs! I hope we get the kids together sometime in the near future! Take care!