Simple sign language can be helpful for all toddlers as language develops
Receptive language may develop faster than expressive language
Using hand signals as an adult has helped with communicating social cues
When Ben was two years old, he was still trying to figure out this thing called language. He babbled all day long in his own secret language but had very few words. Interestingly the words he did know were all nouns and all foods. You can tell what was and is important to Ben!
We taught Ben a few hand signs for things like "all done" , "more" and "help" to try to decrease the frustration he was experiencing with learning language. These simple signs are really helpful for all developing toddlers as their receptive language (what they can understand) may be more advanced than their expressive language (what they can speak).
Fast forward 20 years and Ben is always ready to share a story or word of encouragement. He LOVES to talk. We often tease that the speech therapist forgot to "install the OFF button". It is amazing to see him as the advocate and public speaker he his today for his company Benergy1 Presentations (benergy1.com).
What is still hard for Ben is reading the social cues of others. For example, his brother Dan made a sarcastic smile and asked Ben what feeling was being expressed, to which Ben replied "You are smiling, so you are happy".
Dan is a huge fan of the "Kingkiller Chronicles" by Patrick Rothfuss. In this book, the author introduces a race of people called the Adem who communicate with blank facial expressions and subtle hand gestures. This got Dan to thinking about how he could help Ben know what emotions others were feeling by giving him hand signals that they learned and practiced together.
Their hand signals include "rude", "teasing", "frustrated" and "you decide" among others. This worked really well both ways, Dan to signal Ben as well as Ben signaling Dan in return. The part that still needed some finesse was that the signals were supposed to be subtle and that was not something that came naturally to Ben. Dan would signal Ben that he was being "rude" and Ben would make the same gesture back at Dan but 10 times larger than needed, which kind of defeated the purpose.
We then came up with a signal for Ben to use to let us know that the "message was received". Now the communication can occur under the radar and we know that both parties understand the message.
Communication is so much more than just spoken or written words. Teaching the subtleties of language is an ongoing challenge and one that Ben works hard each day to use appropriately.
Love you more,