We've been working on about half a dozen ASL signs for several months now. As I've blogged about in the past I started signing "milk" when Olivia was about 6 months old and I was still nursing her. She didn't start using the sign until she was close to 11 months and coincidently right around the time I was weaning her to whole milk in a sippy cup. Anyway, she's consistently used the sign since which, let me tell you, has avoided more than a few meltdowns from me not knowing what she wants. "Milk" may be her most used sign, but she's also used "more," "finished/all done" and "food" since around the same time.
Once she got those down I would occasionally (but not consistently like is recommended) sign the word "thank you" and finally one day she mimicked me. In the past few weeks she's started signing "thank you" without any prompting and at the appropriate time, ie when I hand her her milk.
Every time I go to the library I get a few signing DVDs out. She doesn't watch many videos, but I figured these would at least help me pick up some more signs and then I could start using them with her. So the other day my husband, popped one of the Signing Time DVDs in for the first time, and was watching it with Olivia. The host was singing the theme song and signing the entire song. The song goes something like "It's signing time with Alex and Leah...There's signing time, and playing time so many words and so little time." As you can see she says the word "time" a lot in a short period of...time. The song ends on the word "time" and as it ended my husband spotted my daughter signing "time." She wasn't doing it exactly right; instead of pointing at her wrist with her opposite pointer finger, she was using her pointer finger to point at the palm of her other hand. But she did it every time the host said "time" and she's done it every time we ask her "what time is it."
So what am I getting at here? Yes, "time" for a 15 month is rather useless, let's be honest. But the point is how quickly these little sponges of ours can pick up things. After seeing just how quickly Olivia picked her favorite new sign, I decided I'd work on another sign "play." She copied me immediately. While Olivia's ASL signs aren't exactly correct in technique they are working the way they are supposed to as far as communication. She can't yet say the words "milk, more, play, time," but we can communicate with each other, without meltdowns, because we can understand each other.
Some argue that using signs delays speech, but I've found it to be totally opposite. Now that Olivia realizes that communication is a cause and effect and that something happens when she signs, she wants more. In other words, she wants to say words so she can get more reaction to her needs and wants. One thing I have noticed is she won't or will rarely sign for a word that she can say. For example she has NEVER signed "mommy" or "daddy" and I believe it's because she has been saying "mama" and "dada" since about the time she started with her first signs.
Have you successfully used baby sign language with your baby or toddler? What's your experience been?
Signing Time DVD series
How to teach baby sign language
How I got started teaching Olivia ASL baby sign langauge