Teaching your non-verbal child how to sign can really cut down on tantrums and frustration. It can easily replace stress and guessing games if done correctly.
To help build language comprehension you need to pair the sign with a verbal response by doing this they help each other. The sign can act as a verbal prompt. For example: If you say the word car, while giving the sign for car, your child will understand that you expect him or her to make verbal approximations, even if he/she doesn’t say the word perfectly, they may make an effort or an approximation if in fact they are able to. Another thing that I have heard other parents of children with C.P. say is that they don’t teach their child with Cerebral Palsy sign language because they don’t quite have the dexterity in their hands, and though that is most likely true, and it is the case for Hailey as well, you still may be able to adapt a few signs to his/her ability. If it isn’t as perfect as a child who is deaf and has great control with their hands, it’s o.k. You will still be able to understand what they want because they will do it THEIR way. Start out by showing them just two words at a time, keep it simple, chose two words that you wish your child could say, or communicate to you. I think one of the most important signs that you can teach your non verbal child to do is the sign for “hurt” there is nothing worse than when your child is crying and crying and they cannot tell you what is bothering them. If they learn the sign for “hurt” you may be able to narrow it down by finding out if their ears hurt or their throat hurts etc.This is not the easiest sign to learn because your child doesn’t always have a boo boo. You may start out with something like “more” or “eat” or maybe “water” but eventually learning the word hurt can be a life saver. If you are considering sign language for your child as an alternative way of communicating, below is a chart of the alphabet in ASL you may want to get familiar with. As you begin to learn certain words the alphabet will be helpful, but for now, baby sign may work better for your child who is just starting out. Rachel Coleman is a woman who has a child who is deaf and has a child who has C.P. she is an amazing mom and the founder of http://www.signingtime.com/, these are the best c.d.s for teaching your child sign language and the best part is they will have fun while they learn. So come on, give it a try, what do you have to lose. Your determined child just might surprise you!
How to Learn American Sign Language