One of the first things I decided to do when I received the diagnosis that Malakai had Down syndrome was to invest in sign language tools. I bought books, flashcards and even imported DVD's from the United States.
Well, as a big talker and communicator myself, I tried to imagine a day where I was unable to communicate with others and share what I was thinking and feeling - the idea of it made me rather want to die than to be alienated.
So why would I ever knowingly put my child in such an awfully frustrating position?
It took Malakai a good 18 months of daily sign demonstrations before he started to really take off with using signs regularly and today, at just under three years, he can do over 150 signs and uses about 30-40 on a regular basis to communicate, share, ask and express his feelings, thoughts, ideas, understanding of concepts and love for us.
I really incorporated signing into everything we did and forced myself to keep it up - knowing that I was potentially giving him the biggest gift of his life.
The payoff has been immense. Oh yes, there are studies that point to signing increasing literacy and language acquisition, and yes it has meant that I have made sure my child doesn't exist in a world that is devoid of his input... Those are all very important benefits.
And yes, my son is now signing two and three word sentences and has been sight reading words like 'dog', 'cat', 'more' etc since he was two years old. I know that he's able to communicate in sentences and read simply because I have ensured that he was given the ability to sign.
But the most important benefit, in my opinion, is the way that signing has enabled me to really understand just how bright my child is. I can see his understanding of concepts, I can watch his knowledge grow on a daily basis, and this is mostly through his ability to sign to me.
I see my child differently, I see his ability far more than I see any disability. That is the beauty of signing, of sharing, of talking with my child far earlier than simple verbal motor planning skills would have allowed. I see my child as able, competent, clever, and oh so expressive!
The fact that parents of children with Down syndrome still sit today and question whether they should do sign language with their precious children simply confounds me... Why would they not want to give their children a voice? Why would they not want to share and talk and communicate with their children?
Signing has been the single most important intervention that I decided on for Malakai's development and I think that every single child can benefit from the ability to communicate.
Thank You Lord 5 years NED 16 January 2013
4 years ago