Signs of the timesPublished 6:12pm Saturday, August 3, 2013
Family learns baby sign language
Sasha Gilbert and her kids learned a new language in a matter of minutes.
The mother of six decided to have her children, who range in age from 16 to 8 months, learn to sign.
The plan is for her five older children to sign to their baby sister, Montiara Tyson, and help the baby learn to communicate a few common words.
“I just wanted her to have a way to express her feelings,” Sasha said.
Susie Rollins, executive director of the Coastal Pregnancy Center, offered the free session to Sasha and her family. It’s one of a handful of parenting classes available at the center.
Rollins’ experience as a substitute teacher convinced her the class would be great for siblings. She has seen students use sign language to communicate with friends across the room. The American Sign Language she demonstrated was easy to pick up. When Rollins and her husband started signing to communicate with their grandchild, they found themselves making up signs of their own.
Sasha’s oldest, Shaihe Gilbert, was very enthusiastic about the family’s summer project.
“I wanted to show people how intelligent babies can be,” he said.
His sisters, Shaikeria Gilbert, Montasia Tyson, Montavia Tyson and Montia Tyson, want to see if their baby sister will really learn to sign. They used words like “active” and “ambitious” to describe Montiara.
Rollins said 8 months was an ideal age to learn sign language because they are like little sponges, absorbing any stimuli around them.
“During the first year of a baby’s life, they learn 50 percent of what they will learn in their whole life,” she said. “It’s just the coolest thing you can do, as far as her learning development.”
The more the family signs, the faster Montiara will pick it up. Rollins said when the little hands did start forming words, not to expect them to look as clear and precise as theirs.
Montiara has said her first words: mama, papa and baba. Rollins said signing would speed up her language skills.
She recommended the family start by voting on six to 12 words they use everyday and concentrating on them. The best options were the words Montiara would have a use for, like “more,” “milk” and “diaper.”
“This sign for ‘ow’ or ‘pain’ is a very important one,” Rollins told the family.
She recommended using facial expressions to reinforce the signs. Because babies love looking at faces, she said to sign as close to the face as possible.
By the end of the session, the kids had learned more than a dozen common words and were ready to get started.
“It’s that easy,” Rollins said. “Which is why it’s doable for a family.”
To learn more about baby sign language, go to www.babysignlanguage.com . Coastal Pregnancy Center is located at 1312 John Small Avenue in Washington. The center’s office hours are Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 946-8040.