1. to make or use gestures, esp. in an animated or excited manner with or instead of speech.
2. to express by gesturing.
One comment was “I’d love to see something on good, useful first signs to teach.” I started with one or two signs that worked in different settings. It is important, however, to find highly motivating communicative signs – surrounding food, for instance. ‘Milk’, ‘eat’, ‘drink’, ‘more’, etc. This was true of my typically developing infant and when I use it for severe autism or similar non-verbal children. I think whatever sign is most motivating (and used for requesting) is key. I don’t think it matters WHICH sign, as long as the child would be motivated to use it to attempt to get something they want. Once a child recognizes the power of communication (through sign or speech), more communicative attempts and attention to language is almost inevitable.
This is where it gets tempting to use ‘more’ all on it’s own:
1) there is almost always an immediate response to using the ‘more’ sign (you get more of whatever you have been offered – food, game, book, etc) which makes it very rewarding in a well set-up situation.
2) it’s easy to model for the child and to help the child do hand-over-hand – some signs are not as easy to do hand over hand or are more complicated generally in their fine motor requirements. However, I always accept sign approximations, obviously, just as I would accept verbal approximations (e.g. “ba” for ball, bottle, or bath).
I admit that I HAVE used ‘more’ all on it’s own to attempt to have a child realize the power they can possess by actively communicating. Apparently that may not be the best course of action! Interestingly, only the day before my post, this conversation occurred on Twitter:
Food for thought. I have always been aware, in the back of my mind, that ‘more’ on it’s own is not helpful unless it is used in specific instances. Sometimes a child WILL attempt to request something out of the blue with ‘more’ and the logical question of the caregiver is: more what?
Obviously it’s not so clear cut about using ‘more’ as a first sign and can get you into some potential pitfalls. Please keep that in mind if you do introduce ‘more’ into a child’s sign (or spoken) repertoire and think carefully about when and why you are introducing it. If you do introduce it before the child can make 2-word combinations, be sure you have an ‘exit plan’ of sorts to ensure there isn’t overuse/overgeneralization that can lead to a communicative attempt that doesn’t communicate anything tangible!
I’d welcome any further thoughts, ideas and comments!