Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sign Language for Ethan

It was back in late elementary school that I first remember being interested in sign language. I don't know why my parents bought "The Joy of Signing," but they did and I'm pretty sure that sparked my interest. I didn't have any deaf or hard-of-hearing friends or relatives. We had no deaf ministry in our church. But something about it intrigued me.

I learned all the lyrics to a few praise songs. I started a "sign language club" for my friends at school (it never got very off-the-ground!). I studied the book and tried to learn as much as I could. Later when I was in high school and living in Nigeria, I had a few opportunities to go to a local deaf school there. I didn't remember a lot of sign, but I used what I could. It was delightful to finally put my second language into practice!

Now it's more than a decade later and I've hardly given sign language a thought. I used a few "baby signs" for Naomi and Josiah when they were infants and toddlers, but not many. My two-year-old, however, is severely challenged in the language department and I am being re-inspired to take up sign again.

Ethan is 2.3 years old and communicates great with me. He has awesome understanding, great eye contact, and huge desire to be understood. BUT his only word is Mama. He knows a few animal sounds, a few vehicle sounds, and that's it. He doesn't try to copy our words. He doesn't babble or play with sounds. He points, gestures, sometimes yells, and is often left frustrated.

I'm having him seen by a doctor in a few days, to try to get him referred to a speech therapist. I feel like I've waited long enough to see if things just resolve themselves, and nothing's improved. In the mean time, a neighbor recommended that I use sign language with Ethan. I actually had brought my "Joy of Signing" book to the UK with me, so last night I made a list of about 100 words that I use a lot with Ethan, and began to learn them. I've already used a bunch today, and am also trying to teach Naomi and Josiah.

I don't know if it will make a difference. It might very well be pointless. But I'm willing to try anything that might help my little guy on the road to communication.


ErinOrtlund said...

Nice the sign language is coming in handy!

What is Ethan's personality like? I mentioned how Eric didn't talk much till age 3. The same was true of the son of some friends of ours--he is an introverted, sensitive boy. Their second son talked early in comparison. The late talker son is very intelligent and a good student--language just came late for him.

Anonymous said...

That's so great, Lis! I know Timothy's still little, but I am so relieved by the way he can communicate just a few words with signs so he isn't constantly frustrated with my not understanding! I hope it will help Ethan, too. Maybe you'll have to teach me the same 100 words. :)