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Mom Teaches Parents To Sign to Their Babies

Liz Folger


You've just had this beautiful baby. And then it happens—they cry, they fuss and you have no idea what it is they want. What's worse is that for the next 13 to 15 months you're going to have little clue why this new beautiful bundle of joy is upset. But do you really have to wait that long?

"Research has shown that while babies may lack the fine motor skills to speak, they do have the ability to understand and use language as early as 6-7 months. And given the right guidance, they have lots to say - with their hands." Says Diane Ryan, Kindersigns founder, a certified speech and language pathologist, and an expert when it comes to teaching babies sign language.

So what does this mean exactly? Is Diane telling us that we don't have to wait until our babies are talking for us to know what they want? This almost sounds too good to be true.

I decided to do a little research and see if this was really possible. I talked with Jill Paron-St. Louis who has a 17-month-old son named Nathan. Nathan has been signing with his mom since he was 10 months old.

Even before Jill was pregnant with Nathan she knew she wanted to teach her baby to sign. Jill graduated with a sign language communications degree in 1994, and was teaching hearing impaired children. Jill explains, "I knew when I eventually had children, that I wanted them to learn how to communicate in American Sign Language. It is a wonderful language and I wanted to introduce it to them out of interest, and if by chance they ever met a child in school one day, they could communicate through Sign Language."

While Jill was pregnant with Nathan she also started to read many articles about the benefits of teaching hearing babies to sign. She learned that there were many more benefits to signing to a pre-verbal baby than she had ever realized. The only problem was she had no idea how to actually go about teaching signs to her son. She found out about a business opportunity that could teach parents how to sign to their babies and jumped on the idea.

Jill started teaching Nathan to sign when he was ten months old. She didn't know what to expect at first or how long it would take for him to learn. She says, "I started teaching my son to sign at 10 months, I remember after about 8 weeks thinking he just wasn't getting it. I couldn't help but think I was doing something wrong, but I stuck it out and after 10 weeks of teaching him, he signed back to me! While sitting in his high chair he signed that he wanted "More Cheerios!!" I was so excited!"

Since that first "More Cheerios" sign, Nathan hasn't stopped signing. He is 17 months old and knows 30 signs and is learning more every day. Besides the signs, his vocabulary is incredible. He now knows about 75 words. Jill explains, "He is a very happy and calm baby. The only times he really gets frustrated is when he can't have something he wants. Otherwise, he is able to tell me what he wants without any frustration. If he's thirsty, or tired, or hungry, or wants me to read him a book he tells me. It's just amazing!!!"

Jill has been able to get her whole family involved too. Her husband and parents, who are 65 years old, have learned sign language so they could talk with Nathan too. Jill says, "This experience has been extremely rewarding for us all!"

Not only has this been an incredible experience for Jill's family, but she has also been able to create a very rewarding business as well. She is now able to teach other parents to sign to their babies. When Nathan was about 14 months old and was signing back to Jill on a regular basis, Jill felt confident to start teaching other parents. She started her business called, Baby Signers.

Jill held her first baby-signing workshop in May of 2005 at a woman's home and then followed that by giving a private class for her and three of her friends. "I left feeling confident and proud with the information I had given them," Says Jill. Four months later Jill taught another six private workshops and five public ones with more classes scheduled. She estimates that she has already taught between 65-70 people how to sign to their babies. "It is extremely rewarding and I often get emails from people letting me know that their babies have started to sign back," Explains Jill.

This business has been perfect for Jill. "I love the freedom that Kindersigns gives. We are able to say that we have been trained by them, but still have complete control over all our marketing and pricing, and in just four months I have made a name for myself," Says Jill, who is very excited about the future of her business. She hopes to have more babies of her own to teach this special way of communication as well as many new clients down the road.

Liz Folger is the founder of BizyMoms s leading online resource for work-from-home ideas.

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