It's official. I'm a blogger! I have been meaning to set up a blog since forever and eventually got round to it!
I hope to use this blog to share information about Sign2Music and the benefits of signing with babies and children. I think it is probably best to start by explaining where it all began for me. Here goes!
How Did It All Begin?
When I was in my early twenties (only a couple of years ago!) I did some work and volunteering with Sense NI (the deafblind association). I completed my BSL Stage 1 to support me in this role. When I later qualified and started working as a Social Worker I went on to complete Stage 2. I developed a love of the language and an interest in Deaf culture.
When my twins, Eoghan and Aine, now 15 were young I started using signs with them, not because I had ever heard of 'baby signing', but because it made sense to me that it would aid their communication. Also it was a good way to practise my signing! They were already speaking but took a great interest in fingerspelling which helped them learn to spell and read. They also signed for fun and in situations when I couldn't hear them. I remember them both signing 'I love you' out the window the first time they got the school minbus to go to nursery (aged 35 months). Then I had to walk home, tears tripping me!
How Cara Inspired Me
When my daughter Cara (now 4) was born, I became very interested in the growth of ‘baby signing’ taking place in the United States. I did a lot of internet research and decided to give it a go with her, as it made sense to me.
When Cara was five months old we started signing with her. At five and a half months she did her first signs - daddy, milk and cough! When she was 12 months old she could use 50-70 signs and could tell us how she felt, if she wanted her nappy changed, if she was hungry or thirsty. At the pre-verbal stage she could actually ‘converse’ with her family, her first words coming from her hands rather than her lips!
One of the most amazing 'signing' experiences I had was when Cara was almost 9 months old. I had been breastfeeding but was in the process of weaning, so had introduced a bottle/cup. That night I was breast feeding as normal, but had brought some milk in her cup to give her after, as I knew she would need more. She was getting quite upset as I was feeding her. I signed 'milk' and she lifted her head and signed 'no milk'! When I lifted her cup she got excited and signed 'milk' . I couldn't believe it so I repeated this several times with the same result! That was the last time I breastfed Cara, as there was indeed 'no milk'. I think it was totally amazing that a baby at less than 9 months of age could tell me this so clearly herself. This was also the experience that convinced my husband that this wasn't just another of my 'fads' that I would lose interest in after a while. He has since admitted to me that for the first few months he pretended to be 'into it', signing when I was about. Then as soon as I left the room he didn't bother. I have just about forgiven him!
Cara really inspired me to promote this amazing communication and bonding tool to everyone I could. I thought it would be a good idea to try to set up a wee local class for like minded mums as I had qualifications in sign language, experience of running groups and could sing a bit!
So What Did I do Then?
I had already come across Sign2Me, as I had been using Dr Joseph Garcia's Sign with your Baby pack. Sign2Me is the original Baby Signing Organisation, based on Dr Joseph Garcia's 'SIGN with your BABY' programme, a straightforward and fun approach to showing infants how to communicate using simple signs borrowed from sign language. I gained accreditation and became part of the Sign2Me presenters network in May 2007 and 'Sign 2 Music' was born!
Actually when I say Sign2Music was born on this date that is not strictly true! Sign2Music was called Signing Kids at first. What a nightmare it was trying to find a name I liked that hadn't been used before. I wanted to incorporate the musical aspect of the programmes I had created which is why I changed the name after a few months.
It may be surprising to some people that it has not all been 'plain sailing' for Sign2Music. In fact it took me almost a full year to get a viable class. People I encountered (including within my own family) seemed at least sceptical and at most hostile and angry that I would 'sign' with a hearing child! The 'wee class' that I planned to start was only meant to be a place to bring Cara and share the benefits with others. It was never intended to become a career choice for me, just a short term hobby!
Those who know me well will tell you that I can be very single minded! Rather than putting me off, this lack of interest and knowledge made me more determined to make people understand what a wonderful tool this is!
I want to finish by saying thanks to a few people: To the nice woman who tutted and muttered under her breath when I was signing with Cara in a supermarket; To my lovely dad for telling me to 'stop the nonsense 'cos people will think there's something wrong with her'; To the parents for saying no and giving me 'that look' when invited to come to a class. Thanks to everyone who doubted the benefits of signing in the early days despite the research and evidence to the contrary. You fuelled my dogged determination and I can now say without doubt SIGNING WORKS. And so can many, many parents and carers throughout Northern Ireland!