It's All About the Numbers, Baby!

In my formative years, numbers were my nemesis. Two comments were consistently written on my report card all the way through school, “Nancy talks too much in class” and “Nancy needs to work on her math skills”. Both, proof that I’m a word nerd and that language and communication are my thang!

Well, I have made peace with my numerical nemesises (You probably didn’t know that is the plural of nemesis, but a word nerd like me does.) And today I have some numbers to share with you. The first two involve some bragging – 4,000 and 2,000. As of this week, more than 4,000 parents and educators have graduated from my Hop to Signaroo four-week classes and two-hour workshops, and with them came nearly 2,000 of those beautiful babies that I love so! I’ve also been lucky enough to lecture to several thousand additional parents and educators across the state via presentations for PEPS and other parenting groups, through King County and Sno-Isle Libraries and at early education conferences. Suddenly, I like numbers again.

But enough about me, let’s talk about you and your amazing babies and some of the numbers you should know. Have you had fears about learning American Sign Language  to communicate with your hearing baby because you’ve tried  to learn a new spoken language and struggled? Well the good news, my supposedly linguistically-challenged friends, is that 80% of American Sign Language is iconic or representational of the item or concept you’re signing. For example, the sign for “milk” is one or both hands opening and closing to fists, as if milking a cow. When you take a Hop to Signaroo class or workshop, I give you mnemonic memory aids for the signs you learn. Another number that might interest you is sixty-five, as 65% of people are visual learners…perfect for learning the beautiful, visual vocabulary of American Sign Language! Fear not, you 30% who are auditory learners, as I’ve got you covered, too! In my classes you get the verbal cues you need to remember the signs. And for you 5% who fall into the category of kinesthetic, (hands-on and tactile) learners, sign language taps into your natural strengths and you’ll find that your muscle memory kicks in more quickly than it might for others. You may not even need to think about the signs, as your hands will just “go there” once you’ve learned them. The beauty of signing with your little one (besides reducing their frustration and yours!) is that you don’t know yet which of these three learning styles will be your baby’s strength. Luckily, my teaching techniques are designed for all three types of learners and your efforts will strengthen your baby’s individual learning style at an early age! More shameless bragging, your family’s success will come from taking a class from a credentialed, educational professional who’s been teaching and signing for 20+ years.

Let’s talk about one of the most important numbers to not remember when teaching your baby to sign. That number is three. I have nothing against three, itself. A pair and a spare. That’s great for a lot of things, like socks, because the dryer always eats one. However, it is not a good number when it comes to your initial efforts when signing with your little one. I can’t tell you how many parents come to my classes or presentations and say they’ve been signing with their babies for several months and aren’t even seeing recognition of the signs yet. My first response is, “Let me guess, you’ve been signing only three signs – probably milk, eat and more.”  Most of the time, the parents’ response is “yes” because they’ve read that you should only introduce three signs and shouldn’t introduce any more until the baby starts to sign at least one of them back. Well, I hate to break it to you but that is old school, baby sign language thinking. You wouldn’t speak just three words to your baby until you baby speaks them back. Babies learn to speak because they hear an average of 4,500 words throughout the day. I’m certainly not expecting you to sign 4,500 words a day but if your baby is only seeing you model three signs, the communication is far too random and they won’t realize the signs are a means of communication, even for important signs like “milk”, “eat” and “more”. If your little smartypants does catch on with only three signs modeled, she will start using that first sign that got a response for everything, think it’s the magical sign to express all needs and wants. Or your little one will think you’re a mind reading superhero! Well, just by virtue of being a new parent, you are a superhero…but you’re not a mind reader, which is why you’re signing with your baby in the first place!

So how many signs should you start with? Well, I can’t give away all my trade secrets here. However, I can tell you that when you take a Hop to Signaroo class or workshop, you learn which signs to start with to empower your little one to express her basic needs and wants in a much calmer manner than she has been, which likely has been crying or screaming. We’ll also discuss how many to start with and how to add to your signing repertoire for faster results. You’ll learn how to make signing natural, fun, easy and manageable with realistic expectations for modeling the signs in a natural context throughout your typical, daily routine. Remember, you’re not learning ASL sentence structure or irrelevant vocabulary. You’ll be focusing on baby and toddler-centeric signed vocabulary that will help your little one communicate many, many months before his vocal chords are fully formed and your baby can effectively articulate his needs verbally. You’ll also be speaking to your baby as you normally do and supplementing that all important verbal communication with key signs, again tapping into the multiple learning styles detailed above.

When you follow Hop to Signaroo’s tried and true techniques, you’ll likely notice that your baby is recognizing and responding to signs within the first few weeks and signing back within approximately two to three months, if you start anytime from five months of age onward. And that’s just an average, as many of my baby grads have signed back within the first month and some have even signed their first signs in class! Eight month old Olive signed her first sign in class when KING 5 News was there to film me in 2009! Olive, honey, the check is in the mail. Let me start your college fund! Check out Olive’s video and then check out a few other Hop to Signaroo superstars here.

Still need more proof? How about just a little more shameless bragging? Visit my parent and educator testimonials and see what other new parents have to say. Not only do parents have wonderful things to say about Hop to Signaroo classes but many report how signing, and my techniques in particular, made life in the their home so much calmer! Several families have repeated the class with Baby#2 or emailed after Baby#3 to report that they applied what they learned in class with great results for all their babies! I guess I do like numbers, after all!

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