FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 29, 2014) -- Raising a newborn or toddler can be frustrating and exhausting at times, but Fort Rucker Army Community Service offered a new way for parents to communicate with their children May 22.
"We began talking to Families to see if there was any interest in a baby sign language class," said Crystal Roedler, ACS new parent support program manager. "There was an overwhelming amount of support for the class, so we decided to hold one."
Developing children are often between a rock and a hard place because they cannot communicate the way they want to with their parents, said Roedler, and child development specialists have found that teaching babies sign language is a fun way for parents to help alleviate some of the challenges that come with raising a newborn.
"Babies develop their motor skills before their vocal cords. Babies often know what they want, they just can't tell us. So, by using their motor skills in the form of sign language, it prevents the frustration that sometimes comes to both parents and children when they cannot communicate effectively," said Suzie McBryde, Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind special instructor and service coordinator.
The initial class was geared toward teaching parents some basic starter signs, but it was also a chance for McBryde to share some tips for success -- the reasons signing is important and resources parents can use to learn more about signing -- such as apps, videos and books they might find helpful once they get home.
"Sign language can really ease frustration and the emotional backlash that babies have when they can't tell their mom or dad what they want," continued McBryde. "It can be embarrassing for a parent to have a child have a tantrum or cry in a store, and this type of communication can help prevent that."
Babies tend to be happier when they can communicate, she added.
Learning sign language also helps children learn how to speak sooner and in longer sentences. There was also a study that proved that babies that learn to communicate through sign language develop a higher IQ before age 8, said McBryde.
Some of the signs that parents learned were: more, eat, all done, wait, ball, toy, book, car, mommy and daddy.
"Parents have natural gestures and we talk with our hands to our children all the time, often without realizing it," said McBryde. "When we tell a child to 'Shhhh' we put our fingers over our mouths and when we teach bye-bye we wave. Sign language is no different.
"Parents might be standoffish to take a class, but, whether they like it or not, signing is something that humans do naturally," she continued. "And it becomes a game to the child and they don't realize they are learning."
More than 30 parents attended the first-time class, and Roedler said ACS will try to bring back a class this fall for parents who did not attend this session or if people want to come again and bring their children.
"I have a (toddler at home) and I tried the baby sign language by looking things up on the Internet, and she picked it up really fast. I am pregnant now, and for this child I want to do more," said Grisel Castillo, Army spouse. "This class has allowed me to learn a lot more and be exposed to a lot more information. I could ask questions and have the instructor go into more detail, which was really helpful."
Castillo said the class was perfect, not being overwhelming with material while giving a great amount of simple and new information.
Dina Ramirez, an Army spouse with a 7-month-old-daughter, said the class was everything she expected.
"I think that sign language can really bridge the gap during the time my child knows what she wants but can't tell me," she said. "I really think it will help derail a meltdown in the future. It was reliable, fun and helpful."
Each participant took home a baby sign language flash card book provided by ACS.
For more information, call ACS at 255-9647.