Sunday, October 21, 2012
The Baby Signs® Program: An Intervention Before Parents Even Know There is a Need
Over the years Dr. Susan Goodwyn, co-founder with me of the Baby Signs® Program, and I have received emails from Baby Signs® Instructors, from parents, and even from our academic colleagues, all commenting on the potential benefits not just of signing, but specifically of the Baby Signs® Program, for autistic children and urging us to take a closer look. Given the severe problems so many autistic children have with verbal language, we believed they were right, but it was the following email in particular from a Baby Signs® Instructor that caused us to really sit up and take notice. Here’s what she told us:
“I got a call from someone who teaches autistic children. She thanked me for teaching the Baby Signs® Program and shared that she uses signs with the older kids she works with and it really helps them. She went on to say that our teaching signs to parents of babies is a wonderful thing for autistic children because parents often do not get a diagnosis until they are older, so they are getting some intervention before they even know there is a problem.”
What startled us into action was the insight that by teaching young babies to sign, we are providing parents of autistic children “…some intervention before they even know there is a problem.” With this email as the inspiration, we’ve put together a list of research based findings about autism and reasons why we believe the Baby Signs® Program (BSP), including our DVD-based potty training program, holds the promise of being especially beneficial to families with autistic children, both before and after they are diagnosed.
• FINDING: A teaching method in which sign and word are paired together is especially valuable because it provides information that will be needed by autistic children who turn out to be capable of moving on to verbal communication.
BSP: Our program instructs adults to always pair the word with the sign when modeling for children with the goal of fostering verbal language. What’s more, our federally-funded research with non-special-needs children indicates it works.
• FINDING: Research indicates that autistic children do learn important things from video presentations; in fact, some research even suggests they learn more easily from video than from live demonstrations.
BSP: Our program offers a wide variety of extremely high-quality DVDs designed to directly teach important signs while they entertain. Children simply LOVE these DVDs.
• FINDING: Autistic children benefit from repetition and routines.
BSP: Because repetition is the key to success with all young children, our DVDs provide lots of repetition of the signs by real babies and our animated DiaperDoodle characters. The fact that children enjoy them so much that they ask to watch them over and over is an added plus.
• FINDING: Autistic children can be a particular challenge to potty train because they can’t communicate effectively and often aren’t motivated to please their parents or respond to social reinforcement.
BSP: Our potty training DVD is designed specifically to teach the potty routine (which appeals to autistic kids) and 5 potty-time signs (which provides necessary communication) through lots of repetition and modeling by the DiaperDoodles, our animated characters.
• FINDING: When they first hear about signing with children, many adults are intimidated and fear that it will take too much learning on their part.
BSP: Baby Signs® resources and classes make learning easy and fun for parents, teachers, and child care professionals.
Visit www.babysigns.com for more information about Baby Signs® resources
to help you and your baby enjoy all the benefits that signing can bring.
Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!
Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program