Just wanted to post this encouraging email from Arieigh (Gravenhurst, Ontario) who has been an invaluable resource to us for sign language. As she comments that she had difficulty posting a comment on the blog, I am sure she won't mind me reposting this email.
I feel moved to respond to your blog. I've tried twice to comment there but each time my comments disappear when I try to preview or post them. You are justly proud of your total communicator. He shows great spirit, creativity and intelligence in getting his point across in the best way he can at this time. There is absolutely no reason to stop signing with him. As far as I know, there is no research that suggests that signing delays speech. In fact quite the opposite is true. Research shows that children who sign acquire speech earlier and have larger spoken vocabularies at age 8 (the oldest group for which there is current data) than children who did not sign before they could speak. The article you link to in your blog does not cite any research, it expresses an opinion that is quite controversial. I seriously doubt a study based on depriving children of their most effective means of communication in order to force development of an alternative means for which they may not be developmentally ready would get past the ethics committee.
It is perfectly typical for a child to hit a plateau in speech development at the stage where he has a few words as you describe for Jack. My granddaughter, articulated only nine words for the longest time while her sign vocabulary, expressive abilities and sentence structure blossomed. When speech kicked in she went from being able to say nine words to being able to say all 250 words she could sign in two weeks. It might not happen that quickly for Jack but there is no reason to believe it would not happen that way for Jack as he is already saying some words clearly enough for you to understand. I firmly believe that if we had stopped signing with Lark or exposing her to new signs when she had a vocabulary of 100 signs, she would not have developed her speech any sooner but we would have slowed her language and cognitive development.
If you re-read that article you cite, you will see even they say the parent is the best judge of how much sign to use. I say go with your heart. Or at least follow up to see if the authors can actually cite any research that supports their opinion. To me this aspect of their recommendations is taken from a very outdated model that focuses on a child's "weakness" to the detriment of their strengths. They are suggesting a sacrifice of some of the critical window for language development on the unsupported hypothesis that this will accelerate speech development for those children with DS who can develop clear speech. Even if that is the majority of children with DS, what is the effect on those who are not going to develop speech but who have the gifts to be effective total communicators? What is the impact on emotional development and frustration levels?
All the best to you and Jack, whatever road you decide to follow.
Arleigh Luckett, M Ed
Master Signing Time Instructor
Certified by the Signing Time Academy
S i g n i n g A s W e G r o w
"Early communication with lasting benefits"
We are so impressed with the Signing Time videos and Jack is now able to sign over 200 signs. They are fun, musical, and feature cousins Leah and Alex who sign along with us. I was shocked at how quickly Jack, Jasmine and Levi began to learn and use the signs in as quickly as one viewing. I think with Jack also perhaps struggling with apraxia, it will be important for us to continue to give him a way to express himself and learn new things with the help of sign.
Arleigh has just informed me that there is a huge DVD sale on this week. We are planning to buy the second set and the potty time DVDs. To buy this set regularly cost us $272.00 but with the sale will be $150. Huge savings! Unfortunately this is a sale that is only available in Canada through participating Signing Time Academy Instructors. Click on the image below to link through to Arleigh's webpage for all the details. Stay tuned for more posts on the benefits of signing with children with Down Syndrome! I have been doing some more research.