At the beginning of the year, I really started worrying about communicating with Braxton. At 18 months he had zero words and really no way of communicating with us. I decided then that I really wanted us to learn sign language because we weren’t certain if Braxton would always be non-verbal. I took a class in high school and I did baby sign language with Aileen and watched “Signing Time,” but unfortunately a lot of it didn’t stick with me since we were also speaking and didn’t really NEED to sign. I began talking to our Auditory (AI) therapist who sees us in home a few times a month. Then, we met with our early intervention coordinator and ended up increasing our monthly visits with AI so she now comes once a week to meet with us. She mostly plays with Braxton to help us learn how he is communicating and she signs constantly while they are playing, so we asked her to help us learn.
Not too long after, we learned that one of the other Auditory therapists was planning on teaching a sign language class and it would be open to parents and other educators. [She was also going to be doing this completely VOLUNTARILY! I’m always thrilled when I learn people are so willing to give of themselves for something they are so passionate about regardless of compensation. I’m so grateful to the woman teaching and the educators going the extra mile to come to class – after all, they are the ones who will be working with Braxton when he goes to school. This is great for a mom to see! It’s scary to think about putting Braxton in public school at 3 years old, but when I see that the people who will be working with him are genuinely invested in the kids, it puts my mind at ease.] Anywho…We started the class in Mid-March and we only have a few classes left now. I have learned so much and am truly surprised by the amount I have retained. Now that we know Braxton will most likely NEED sign language, I’m glad my mommy intuition made me want to learn and that we asked for more visits and resources. Aileen is even learning with us! She thinks it’s very cool to learn and is always excited to show off her skills. Here is a video after our first class of Aileen:
She’s gotten a lot better and actively asks questions and tries to fingerspell which is fantastic! She’s truly the best big sister ever!
Through the class, we are learning Signing Exact English (SEE). SEE differs from American Sign Language (ASL) in that it is an exact representation of the English language, so there are signs for different tenses and different pre- & suf- fixes. It was explained to us that SEE is beneficial to a child because when they learn to read and write they will be able to read/write the exact way they have been signing because they have a grasp on grammar and syntax of spoken English. ASL is a language in and of itself, and it has it’s own rules about grammar and syntax so when it is written out, it doesn’t translate exactly, which can confuse students.
Our hope is that Braxton does learn to have some verbal language, but if he doesn’t, we want him to be able to express himself. We are also open to him using Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) which is communicating through a technological device. This can be an iPad or some other “talker” device. There are so many options and apps out there today, so it is no easy choice. We are working very closely with our Speech Therapist and when Braxton is ready, we will try out different apps and devices to find what works best for him. For now, we are using an iPad with him just so he is familiar with it. He is getting a lot better at handling it and actually touching the screen with his hand instead of using his head or trying to eat the iPad instead! A few of his therapists even use them with him during their sessions.
We are willing to do whatever it takes to help Braxton be successful. Sign language, picture cards, Communication devices, anything and everything available. Braxton is definitely finding ways to communicate with us now, and while he still doesn’t have any words, we are learning his cues. We have learned so much already on this journey, not just about all of Braxton’s medical issues, but also more about ourselves. We’ve learned how strong we can be and how to be better parents for Braxton. We look forward to the road ahead – Braxton is going to continue to surprise us all.