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Baby sign language class bridging communication gaps for families

Posted at 6:06 AM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 06:19:20-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Every parent knows the pleasures of having a baby, but they can also relate to the frustrations. For example, not knowing exactly what your baby wants, feels or needs can pose serious stress on a parent.

But there is a way to minimize that stress. How? Baby sign language. It's a method taught to babies and their parents to help eliminate communication barriers.

"It's just a tool that you can use to communicate with your baby earlier," said Emily Goudreault, speech language pathologist and founder of The Village in Grand Rapids.

The Village offers baby sign language classes to parents and their babies at every stage. While it may take a baby a while to learn and pick up signing, Goudreault says it's never too early to start.

"We have babies, literally newborns coming in. I started signing with my little guy, who is now three and a half, but I started signing with him literally in the hospital bed," said Goudreault.

"I have families that come and start a little bit later and that’s great too. So, you’re going to see benefits no matter what. I think the most important thing is just being consistent," she said.

Not just signing in the classroom, but consistently signing at home and during your day-to-day activities. That consistency is crucial for a baby to learn how to communicate through sign language.

"The average age for kids to start using their first sign is sometime between six and 12 months," said Goudreault. "I always say I’ve never seen a typically developing child who is being consistently signed to at home not start signing."

Kelley Maki and her baby boy William, say since taking the sign language class at The Village, knowing what William wants and needs is easier than ever.

"Really around 18 months he had this explosion of signs and language where he’s able to tell us when he’s hungry, what he wants to eat," said Maki.

"He would get the biggest smile. He would laugh, and he would definitely test the limits of it you know? Like signing 'more' nonstop to see how much we would actually bring him," she said.

Jackie Wolters taught sign to her first child and is currently taking the class with her second boy Isaac. She said the biggest benefit of using sign language with her kids is just the way it eliminates frustrations.

"They’re hitting their high chair and screaming. You’re like 'are they ever going to get this thing?' But then when it finally happens it's so satisfying," said Jackie Wolters.

"Just having a tool to communicate with your child. The tool itself is helpful, but the confidence that comes from that, I would say, is even more helpful."

For more information on baby sign language classes, click here.