CHYNNA: Welcome to ‘The Gift’, Sybil! Let’s start with you telling us a bit about your background.
SYBIL: First, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year. As a child, I grew up in a child care home and took many child development courses in school and at our career center.
Now, I am married to my wonderful husband, who is a pilot. We have four boys which we homeschool: Commerson, sixteen; Damian thirteen; Brendan nine; and Aodhan one—or as we have come to call them A, B, C, and D. I have been a substitute teacher for our school district for the past three years. In October of last year, I became a Baby Signs Independent Certified Instructor.
CHYNNA: I love the ‘A, B, C, D’ reference. I wished we’d done that with our kids. Maybe I’d remember their names more often. HA! Now, as you mentioned, you’ve chosen to homeschool your four boys. WOW! That must be challenging at times! Can you talk a little bit about this and how you organize the curriculum for each of your boys?
SYBIL: Homeschooling is challenging at times but I find it more rewarding than anything. I enjoy spending time with my boys watching them grow and learn. A typical day in our homeschool starts at 8am for Brendan with bible study followed by math, language arts, geography, typing, reading, and art or music. CJ and Damian do their school work through homeschool co-ops, online programs, independent study, and classes offered at our local college especially for homeschoolers. So, my main function with them is to assist and grade.
We are usually finished around lunch time which leaves my boys time to pursue their interests. We also spend that time to join fellow homeschoolers for field trips and park days.
CHYNNA: Sybil that’s amazing. I have so much respect for caregivers who choose to homeschool because it is not as easy as some people may think it is. Bravo to you! And that’s awesome that you get the boys to join in on field trips, park days and their special interests! When you were ordering school curriculum supplies for your boys, you discovered a wonderful program that you felt would be beneficial for your youngest. Did you want to talk about that program and how were you, or what experienced if any, inspired you to start teaching it?
SYBIL: One day, I was doing some searching online for curricula for our homeschool. What I was searching for didn’t show up but the book Baby Signs by Dr. Goodwyn and Dr. Acredolo did. I read a little about the book and decided to add it to my reading. Once it arrived, I read it and realized a wonderful opportunity passing us by to communicate with Aodhan before he could talk. So, we began to sign. Soon, Aodhan’s eyes would light up at a sign, and then he did his first sign, Milk! It was as exciting as his first word, Daddy. Not long after his first sign he began doing more signs. Seeing the program work, I wanted more tools to use with Aodhan, which lead me to the Baby Signs Program.
I had been looking for something in my life around this time. I really wanted to leave substitute teaching and when I found the Baby Signs Program, I knew it was the answer. I enjoy teaching, love children, and know the program works from my own experience so becoming an instructor was an easy decision.
CHYNNA: How wonderful to see it work firsthand with Aodhan! What a great story! Now, let’s go into more detail about The Baby Signs Program. Can you describe what it is, how it works and what benefits learning the program can have for children and families?
SYBIL: Baby Signs, the ORIGINAL sign language program for hearing babies, has been bringing powerful, research-proven benefits to babies and their families around the world for over 25 years. It’s the world's leading program for hearing infants and toddlers because it is the only baby sign language program that: (a) was developed by child development experts specifically for hearing babies; (b) has been scientifically tested and proven to provide positive benefits for babies and their families; (c) is based on American Sign Language with added flexibility to meet the needs of all families; and (d) offers a full range of signing classes and products for babies, parents and child development centers.
Over two decades of research by Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn, much of it funded by the National Institutes of Health, has shown that using the Baby Signs Program provides many benefits for children and their parents such as:
· Reduces tears, tantrums and frustration: By the time babies are 9 to 10 months old, they are quite capable of knowing what it is they need or want. What they don't know is how to tell us with words-which leads directly to frustration for baby and parent alike. All this changes when a baby is able to use signs. With signs like "eat," "drink," "hot" and "cold," literally at their fingertips, babies can make their needs known quickly and quietly without becoming frustrated and resorting to tantrums and tears. No wonder the answer we most frequently get from parents when we ask how using the Baby Signs Program has changed daily life is decreased frustration!
· Makes learning to talk easier: Some parents may worry that encouraging their child to use sign language might slow down learning to talk. Actually, the opposite is true! Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn's federally funded research showed that using the Baby Signs Program actually helps babies learn to talk. They found that 2-year-olds who had used baby sign language had significantly larger verbal vocabularies than their non-signing peers. And by the time they were three years old, the language skills of the babies who had used baby sign language were more like that of 4 years old. Babies gain a lot of language knowledge when they are able to actively engage in communication with signs-knowledge that lays a good foundation for learning to talk. And, just as a child who learns to crawl is more, rather than less, motivated to learn to walk, so also a child who learns to sign is more, rather than less, motivated to learn to talk!
· Stimulates intellectual development: Children who had participated in Drs. Acredolo and Goodwyn's study were revisited again when they were 8 years old. Each child was assessed using the WISC-III, a typical IQ test for children. The results were very impressive. After controlling for family income, parents' education and a number of other factors know to influence IQ, children who had signed as babies had significantly higher IQs (an average of 114) than the children who had not signed (an average of 102). That's a full 12 points higher!
· Strengthens the parent-child bond: Because babies using baby sign language are able to communicate effectively with their caregivers, the number of positive interactions goes up and the number of negative interactions goes down. In other words, when a baby and parent can truly understand each other and share what's on their minds, they feel more connected to one another.With signs, even very young children can "tell" their caregivers they would like some milk, they saw an airplane or they heard a dog barking. They can let their caregivers know whether they are happy, sad or even afraid. Life with a Baby Signs baby becomes a shared life and with greater sharing comes a stronger, sweeter parent-child bond.
CHYNNA: Thank you for that fantastic explanation and breakdown of the benefits of the program. You know, Sybil, this program sounds like it would be ideal for families with specific needs, such as those with speech or communication issues as often seen with Autism. Have you had any experience with these groups or other special needs families? If so, did you want to talk about how it helped them?
SYBIL: I do not have personal experience teaching a child with speech or communication issues or autism using the Baby Signs Program but there is ongoing research by Dr. Goodwyn and Acredolo on this particular subject. This was taken from an email sent to Baby Signs Instructors: “Susan and I have began to explore the research literature more closely. What we have already learned strengthens our hypothesis that our program, 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.”
From my experiences working with students with communication issues, I believe a lot of frustration could be reduced by using the Baby Signs Program.
CHYNNA: I agree. And the ongoing research the Drs are doing is inspirational. Now, we mentioned earlier that you are an instructor of the Baby Signs Program. What sorts of classes to you offer, how are the classes conducted and where and what can students expect? What, generally, are the costs of the classes? I am a Independent Certified Instructor to teach Parent Workshops and Sign Say and Play Classes.
SYBIL: The Baby Signs® Parent Workshop is based on the breakthrough research of Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn documenting the positive effects of teaching infants to communicate with signs before they can talk. The Baby Signs® Parent Workshop introduces parents to the history of the Baby Signs® movement and the research behind the program. Parents will be provided with the knowledge and strategies they need to begin teaching their children to use signs. Most importantly, the workshop participants will learn about the many benefits for families who incorporate signing into their daily lives. The Parent Workshop is specially designed for expectant parents and parents of children from birth to 24 months old. The workshop will teach you all you need to know to begin using Baby Signs® at home. Early childhood educators, parent educators, social workers and health specialists are also welcome to attend. What’s covered:
· History of the Baby Signs® Program
· Why we should use signs
· When to start teaching signs
· How to teach signs
· Builds your signing vocabulary
· Games, songs, fun & prizes!
The Sign, Say & Play® curriculum is a 6-week program of carefully crafted sequenced sessions developed especially for parents and babies. By embedding the learning of signs in activities that promote cognitive, social, language, literacy, and sensory-motor development more generally, we are able to teach parents specific ways to provide the support in these areas that all babies need to make the most of their critical first three years.
Each week will introduce a new theme. Within that theme you will learn 6-7 signs. The stimulating activities, songs, play, and information introduced will all support learning the signs. During the first session you will receive the SS&P® Kit to take home with you. The books, songs on the CD, and videos will help you continue to teach the signs to your baby at home. Each week you will receive a handout that explains that weeks Baby Signs® and Baby Minds® Tips given about language and cognitive development along with the signs learned and words to the songs taught.
The SS&P® Curriculum is dedicated to:
· Following the child’s lead
· Operating within the child’s “Zone of Proximal Development”
· Providing multi-sensory learning experiences
· Appreciating both language comprehension and production
· Taking advantage of the power of repetition
I am also an On the Grow Educator and offer classes that cover topics and ages well beyond the focus of our traditional signing format. The new program, called On the Grow, offers fun and exciting classes for parents and children (birth to age 5) to enjoy together. Meet other families while discovering easy ways to make the most of your child's earliest years, all in the context of delightful games, songs and activities. Delivered by an On the Grow Educator, these 45 minutes classes go beyond signing to draw from Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn's other best-selling parenting books, Baby Minds and Baby Hearts.
I also am an Early Childhood Educator Trainer. I offer high-quality, professional training specifically designed to teach Child Development Center staff everything they need to know to start signing right away. I offer classes in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Prices vary upon location and class. I also offer private classes and special birthday party packages.
CHYNNA: Thank you so much for going into detail for us. It all sounds fantastic. And I like how there are options for classes that carry on as the child grows. That’s brilliant! You have some incredible products on your website as well. Are these products to be used in conjunction with the classes? If so, in what ways?
SYBIL: Yes, all the products on the website reinforce the material taught in classes. Repetition is a key in learning the signs so seeing signs in books, concept cards, DVDs and more speed up the process plus they are fun!
CHYNNA: You are absolutely right about repetition. That’s fabulous that you offer the products as an option. Please tell us how we can get a hold of you to get more information about your products and your classes.
SYBIL: I can be contacted by phone at 817-768-7191 or 817-718-2876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also class information and locations can be found on my website www.babysignsprogram.com/withsybil
CHYNNA: Great! Sybil, I would love to hear any success stories that stick out in your mind or that have touched you through your work.
SYBIL: In November, I attended an event (my first) and met a mother with twins a few weeks old. We were discussing the program and I used Beebo the Baby Signs Bear to wave to her son. After a minute of waving, the little boy responded with a wave of his own. Of course, we all were excited, he was responding! I saw the baby boy again the following day and he again responded to the wave with his own little wave. This made me really believe in all the research that has went into the Baby Signs Program. It works!
CHYNNA: Aw, what a sweet story…so inspiring. It goes to show that no matter how young they are, babies and children are always trying in their own ways to communicate with us! Okay: One last question I love to ask all my guests: Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share with our readers?
SYBIL: I borrowed these two from Albert Einstein and try to incorporate them into my homeschool and life:
1. Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.
2. Imagination is more important than knowledge.
CHYNNA: I don’t know about our readers but I’m definitely going to write those down! Sybil, thank you for taking the time to drop by ‘The Gift’ blog today to share your insight, experience and wisdom with us. I encourage all of our readers to venture to your Website and check out all the amazing things you have to offer. Good luck with your courses and be sure to come with an update!
SYBIL: One last thing to let your readers know is that I am on Facebook and they can get a free weekly Sign Poster, specials, etc by being a fan.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the Baby Sign Program with your readers today. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
Indepdendent Certified Instructor, On The Grow Educator, and Early Childhood Educator Trainer of the Baby Signs Program