Sign language class much more than baby talk | PostIndependent.com
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Sign language class much more than baby talk

Amanda Holt Miller
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. PearsonLindsey Smith, 20 months old, makes the sign for "ice cream" to her mom, Vanessa Smith, while at the Kozy Kids Preschool in Glenwood Friday. Smith learned to sign in Joanna Ziegler's Signing Smart, a 10-week course on America Sign Language. Smith includes sign language in her day care program.
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The “terrible twos” may be a thing of the past: Nowadays, parents and their young children can learn how to interact effectively. Communication is the key, according to Joanna Ziegler, a Rifle mother who will teach Signing Smart, a program that instructs infants, toddlers and their parents in American Sign Language.The class starts Tuesday, March 1, at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.Children as young as 9 months can tell their parents they want to eat, sleep, stop or play, even though they can’t speak yet.”It gives them a voice,” Ziegler said.

Kinds of signsZiegler has been teaching her own 6-month-old daughter sign language.”I use the sign for ‘milk’ when I give her milk,” Ziegler said, moving her right hand as if she were milking a cow. “When the cat walks by, I make the sign for ‘cat,'” she said, pulling on her own imaginary whiskers. “And she’ll look around for the cat.”Ziegler’s daughter, Annabella, is too young to be able to sign back because she lacks the fine motor skills. But since her mom uses the signs with her and she understands them, she’ll be able to use them herself when she is about 9 months old.Ziegler teaches signs using props, play, song and dance. She teaches words like “ball” and “bear” using stuffed bears and colorful balls. Those signs are called motivational signs, because Ziegler said they’re the words kids want to know.

The “see a lot, do a lot” signs – words such as “no,” “more,” “hungry” and “dirty,” are not as fun for kids to learn, but are the ones parents most want their children to know.’The crawling version of talking’Vanessa Smith, who runs Kozy Kids Home Preschool in Glenwood Springs, has taught sign language to the kids she works with for the past eight months. She is now working with Ziegler to promote Signing Smart.Smith said signing makes her job easier.”A mom can understand that ‘ghhrgl’ means shoe, but I can’t. Signing allows the kids to communicate with me,” Smith said.

Smith said studies have shown, and she’s noticed herself, that kids who sign can start talking sooner than those who don’t.”Kids will do whatever is faster,” Smith said. “They walk once they can, but they crawl until then. Signing is like the crawling version of talking.”Ziegler said kids do not typically become fluent in sign language through programs like hers. They usually lose or forget signs once they begin speaking.Ziegler heard that sign language could eliminate the terrible twos and knew it would work because she’d done similar work with children who had cerebral palsy. But when she looked for a program in the area, she couldn’t find one.”People here order books online, or they go take a regular sign-language class,” Ziegler said.Signing Smart allows children and parents to learn sign language together.


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