A community of families dedicated to early intervention in Montgomery County, MD
Special Signers is local sign-language education program for families. They serve children who are struggling with spoken language and whose families are interested in an "alternative bridge to communication."
The Instructor, Lisa Blumenthal, M.Ed, is a certified special educator from Gallaudet University and fluent in American Sign Language. As a way of opening the doors of communication to a broader population, Lisa shares she "has become passionate about the progressive use of sign language for hearing children with vocal language barriers" and shares that her initial work with these children and their families has shown unequivocal success and potential.
We received the following testimonial written by a mom. Please note that the views expressed are solely of the author. You may learn more about Special Signers on their website at: www.specialsigners.com.
Special Signers Family Testimonial: Bella
Bella was diagnosed with Partial monosomy 9p and trisomy 15q early in her first year. She was diagnosed with Global delay- severe speech delay (verbal apraxia), moderate fine and gross motor delay and moderate cognitive delay. Even before she was born I had planned to teach her American Sign Language (ASL). We started with a few signs at 7 or 8 months of age. I did not know if she would be able to catch on or even have the motor skills to reproduce the signs. Bella did her first signs between 12-18 months (more, eat and shoes). By 2.5 to 3 years she had 75 to 100 signs. Many of Bella's signs were modified by her or me. It didn't matter though, because in the end, we were able to communicate!
I learned each sign on my own from our ASL dictionary and then taught it to Bella. It was a tedious process and I was the one holding Bella back! I couldn't learn the signs fast enough.
This is why we began working with Lisa. I needed help!!!
ASL has given my daughter a voice -a voice that she has had and been able to use from 18 months of age. She not only can tell me what she wants or needs but also how she feels and what she thinks. Bella tells me stories. She signs along when I sing to her. She tells me what happened at school. She can answer questions like "Why are you crying?" or "What happened?" Communicating with Bella through sign helps me to understand what is going on inside her head, to know if she really understands a concept or not. Now that she has started verbalizing she uses her voice to approximate words and her signs to clarify their meaning. Because of ASL Bella has never had frustration with expressing herself.
Bella is a graduate of the wonderful Infants and Toddlers program where she received OT, PT and Speech therapy. We spent a lot of time trying to teach her how to communicate with pictures and "Tech Talk." Her teachers are still trying to have her use these techniques in PEP. Unfortunately, Bella has had little interest in this mode of communication. Although I appreciate the reasoning behind this form of communication I also understand Bella's reluctance to utilize it. ASL is easier for her and more importantly it's faster. With ASL there is no need to refer to a picture. I do not have to carry a book or folder with me everywhere I go in order to communicate with my daughter. ASL allows Bella to be spontaneous with her communication and to express her thoughts with creativity. She is not restricted to a board of 8 or 16 pictures. Signing also allows her to practice forming sentences and a basis to practice sentence structure.
I requested ASL lessons for our family while Bella was a student in Infant and Toddlers but there was no resource available at the time. ASL is a wonderful resource for families with children diagnosed with speech delays.
I personally recommend teaching ASL to infants to all my friends that are new moms regardless of whether or not the child has special needs. Both of my children have had great success with signing. I can't imagine what our lives would be like without ASL! Without ASL I believe that my daughter would be isolated, frustrated and condemned to pointing and grunting to communicate only her basic needs.
Using sign as our primary mode of communication has allowed Bella to blossom. I see how bright, clever and very funny she is. Other people can see it too. When she signs people see that she has the ability to understand and that she is capable of communicating. They all know that she has something to say!