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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Talking Hands

When Calvin was 6 months old, James and I took him to a series of baby sign language classes. The classes were really more for us than for him. Typically babies who are introduced to signs around that age start using the signs themselves around 10 months. Calvin started using signs right around his first birthday.

A big part of our motivation to teach him baby signs was the fact that 22Q deletion syndrome is typically associated with delayed language development. Somehow the signs are easier for these kiddos to learn and they can use them to communicate when they aren't yet able to use words.

Calvin's very first sign was "more" and the first few signs he used all had to do with food: more, milk, water, cereal, and please. Later he started learning other nouns like animal names, foods, and things around the house like books and toys.

Here are two videos of him at 16 months where you can see him use the signs for "book" and "please." Around that time he was using the sign "please" often to ask for things, and it was great to see him signing, but it was also hard because he didn't always know the sign for the thing he was asking for. That's one of the two big limitations of the baby signing that I've found. The other limitation is that, because of his developing motor skills, the way he does the signs doesn't look like the adult version and some of his signs for different things look identical. We just have to use the context of the situation and do our best to figure it out. For example, the way he signs duck looks just like milk, but if we're playing with toys there's a good chance he wants his toy duck whereas if it's during a meal it's definitely milk. I imagine that it's not that different from interpreting "baby talk."

At his 18 month check up in October, he still was not using any verbal words. He was babbling lots of sounds and had demonstrated about 20 signs, but no words. His use of signing showed that he was able to communicate and that cognitively he is using and understanding language. But it looks like he will need some help developing verbal speech. We started talking about speech therapy with his pediatrician and with our case worker from Golden Gate Regional Center (an organization that will help hook us up with therapy services if/when Calvin needs them). He has an appointment with the speech and language specialists at Stanford (add that department to the team of specialists already following him!) in February, and I think he'll likely start speech therapy after that.

In the month since that appointment, I am very excited to report that he has started saying "mama" and "daddy" consistently enough to be sure that they're real words and not just babbles! It is so wonderful to hear him call me mama for the first time. Feels like it was a long time coming. There are a couple of other words that he sometimes says (or sort of says...), but not as consistently. Those are ball, milk, more, hey, duck, and "all done."

Here's a little video of his few words and a few of the signs he knows. I hate that it's a crappy phone vid, but I am very pleased to share it!

Haha. I blanked on what other signs he knows! I estimate that he uses over 30 signs. Here are all that I could think of :)

more, milk, water, food, bread, banana, grapes, cracker, cereal, please, all done, down, help, toys, play, dance, book, music, mom, dad, Lola (grandmother), Henry, duck, pig, dog, cat, bird, elephant, car, tree, bed, awesome, and (please don't judge me!) Mickey Mouse and  Sesame Street!

We're proud of our little guy, and we're so glad that we decided to teach him sign language! It's a relief to know that he is learning and communicating in his own way.


  1. That video is so precious! Baby sign language is awesome! I have a book of common baby signs, and I know some from when Jack was little (great for a Down Syndrome kiddo to communicate with signs!) My personal favorites he knew were fish, dog and hat. I love that Calvin is adding some vocal words in his repertoire! The transition has got to be so exciting in your house! Go Calvin!

  2. I know this is an older post but I was exploring your site and LOVED these videos of him signing! Way to go, dude. Too cute.