Friday, August 22, 2008

Elitist? (Part 1)

(this is Part 1, please see Part 2 here)

A few reactions to a rather blithe comment by me in my last post made me realize I’d probably unintentionally come across as a bit condescending.Please forgive me and bear with me as I try to explain...
My comment was:

#4 - it’s a good ice-breaker, though there seem to be many elitist parents
who teach their children sign language because it’s the “in” thing to do.

A couple of sweet readers were brave enough to post that they had taught their children sign language. I in no way meant any disrespect and am happy this could be a tool for them.

The foremost reason (in my opinion) that any parent should teach their children sign language, is because it helps them communicate. Feeling understood is invaluable. You are right - it cuts down on frustration and allows them to tell you what they need/feel/want.

Early on I was astonished by how many people questioned the wisdom of teaching my son sign language.

“Won't that delay his speech?”
“He’ll sign instead of talk”

Good grief!!! Way to add to the guilt trip of an already well-stocked deaf mother.

Repeated studies have shown that a child’s receptive skills are far greater than commonly believed. Meaning, you can sign “eat” and watch an infant get excited or fussy in response – even though they may not be able to sign it back. The actual skill of signing has been shown to increase a child’s brain development in other areas and increases fine motor skills.

My son’s first sign was “more”, at just a few months old - long before the average child learns to speak.

Won’t that delay his speech? He was ahead of the curve on the language tests – by more than double.

He’ll sign instead of talk. He sometimes combines them if he can’t figure out a word, or speaks and signs together. He’ll grab his little boat, then sign and say “warm bath pleeeease?” Any question of what he means?

In my defense - the reason for my “elitist” comment was my first experience with parents who were teaching their infant sign language. They could not be bothered to speak with the young woman (me) who obviously did not shop at the same department stores they did (serious posers with the money to back it up).

The social stigma was suddenly eclipsed by the fact that I knew sign language.

Which then meant that I needed to hear every detail of why their 2 month old son would be the next genius in his Rich Babies Only preschool.
You know the type: books-on-tape thing via headphones while she was pregnant (okay, except that the books were like “Microeconomics and You” and “Russian Classical Composers”), flashcards of US Presidents, French nanny, etc.
Most okay in moderation, but too much for this chick who had already done a decent amount of her own Early Childhood Development studies. Lots of polite nodding as they explained their world domination gameplan to me.

I was left with a bad taste, and their awkwardly enthusiastic praise of my signing ability as, “that’s so NEAT”.

(continued in Part 2)