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Hands-on experience

Published October 07. 2013 05:00PM

As the popularity of baby sign language grows, local parents are turning to sign language to bridge the language gap between infants and adults.

Jamie and Rob Walck of Lehighton first introduced baby sign language to their son Callen, now 3, between 6 and 9 months old. Callen picked it up quickly, understanding simple signs after just a few repetitions. The precocious young boy thrived with the additional challenge of signing and the ability to communicate clearly.

"We wanted to be able to communicate more, so that he could tell us what his needs were," said Jamie. "When he was eating, if he truly wanted more food, he could ask for it."

She noted that Callen seemed to enjoy being able to communicate with his parents and caregivers. It also made life easier for his parents, who were no longer guessing if he was hungry, tired or bored when he became upset.

"I think it worked really well for him," said Jamie. "Once we began communicating more effectively through sign language, we knew what he wanted."

The Walck family eventually incorporated 20 signs into their toddler's vocabulary, including mealtime signs of "more" and "full," plus a few fun signs the sign for swing, which Callen used to ask to go outside, and the playful sign for bubbles.

"I would say give it a try, and see how it works," she added. "If they're not really into it, put it away and try again in a few months."

Mindy and Nate Tkach of Lehighton began signing with their son Wesley, now 2, when he was 9 months old.

"I'd heard good things from other parents, and wanted to give it a try," said Mindy.

"He caught on pretty quickly," she said, noting that Wesley understood and could repeat some basic signs within two months.

They started with a few signs, mostly food-related, then added more words as he began to repeat signs. His most commonly used words were "more," "please," and "thank-you."

She added that their focus on politeness paid off. Wesley continues to use "please" and "thank-you" regularly, making a smooth transition from signing to speaking the kind words.

"It really stuck," she said of his polite habits. "Once he started talking and using the words, the signs went away."

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