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Because every family deserves the blessing of a child with Down Syndrome...

8:48:00 PM

Introducing :: a helping hand

I'm proud to introduce a new series on the Reece's Rainbow blog,
a helping hand. These will be supporting tools from the experts... or articles written by experts for parents!

This post today is a brilliant starting point for this new series and a brilliant starting point for parents of children with special needs and Down syndrome.
Please welcome Lila from!

Today we have the first in a series of posts by Lila from on how you can use Sign Language to improve communication with children with Down Syndrome. 

One of the biggest challenges with Down Syndrome is that it impairs the ability to communicate.  When parents and children are unable to effectively communicate, they both feel misunderstood, frustrated, and discouraged.  And in this frustration, we sometimes miss those precious opportunities to share the little joys with each other.  Sign language is a powerful tool that many families of children with Down Syndrome have found to improve communication. 

My background is in teaching sign language for hearing babies.  Sign language helps parents communicate with pre-verbal children using hand gestures drawn from American Sign Language. Babies can use gross motor skills to form signs long before they develop the fine muscle control and breath control required for speech.  Research shows that allowing babies to start communicating earlier through sign language improves long term language development and increases bonding between parent and child.   

Families affected by Down Syndrome have reported many of the same benefits of using sign language.  Down Syndrome affects speech development and fine motor skills, and many children with Down Syndrome experience speech delays.  Sign Language relies primarily upon gross motor skills, thus bypassing the problematic fine motor skills.  Signing provides children with a method of communication that does not rely on vocal speech development.   

Signing and speaking are typically used side by side.  This combined approach aids in speech development, increases legibility of communication, and helps children build confidence.  When a child combines a spoken word with a sign, the caregiver has two clues to understand what is being said.  This vastly increases the likelihood that the caregiver will understand the child.  Everyone feels less frustrated and motivated to keep communicating with the help of Sign Language.  

So, let’s jump right in!  I want to show you 2 basic signs that I hope you will begin using today.  The signs for “hungry” and “water” are simple to use, and can be practiced many times throughout the day. 

Start getting into the habit of using these signs around your child.  Every time you offer food sign “eat,” and every time you offer a drink, sign “water.”  The key to introducing your first signs is providing lots of exposure.  With much repetition, your child will begin to imitate and understand the signs.  The early  version of the signs are not be exactly “correct,” but that is just fine.  Watch out for any hints of signing and lavishly encourage all steps in the right direction. 

In the next part of this series we will go more in depth into how to teach your first signs.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please share them in the comments below and we will answer them in future posts.  Happy signing. 

This post was provided by the foremost resource for baby sign language offering printable baby signs video dictionary and great community support at Facebook.

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