Ever since Hope was born, The Civee and I have been naming her toys for her (although The Civee would probably claim that between the two of us, I do more of the naming). We’ve tried to be creative. Sure, she has a stuffed monkey named “Monkey,” but she also has a few friends with unconventional names. The penguin in the picture to the left is Schmidlapp. Hope has a stout giraffe we call “No Neck.” And there’s some weird stuffed bear/mouse hybrid named Mouse Rat.
As you can see, Hope likes to hold on to them tightly, or walk around with them, holding them by the tail, nose or other appendage. And without a shadow of the doubt, we can say that she knows who they are.
A few weeks ago, the three of us were hanging out, with Hope running around the living room when I said something about Schmidlapp. Hope stopped what she was doing, walked across the room, picked up the penguin in question and brought him over to me.
My immediate thought was “oh great, now I really have to watch my mouth around Hope.”
But even though I now have to be more cautious with what I say and call things, this has been a great development. Hope knows more than the names of many of her toys. She can point to some of her body parts when asked. She knows where the pictures of her cousins are in her room.
For a few months, we’ve been using some basic sign language with her. Mostly eating-related, she knows signs such as “all done,” “more” and “bib.” She’s taken well to the signs, although lately, instead of making the sign for “more” when she wants more food, she points and makes a noise similar to “mooooouhhhh.” Because her (now repaired) cleft palate meant a possible delay in speech development, Hope gets to see a speech therapist, who we meet with about once a month.
According to the speech therapist, we can count the signs Hope knows and other things she responds to as words she can “say.” Teaching her sign language isn’t about teaching her sign language, but rather how to communicate, starting with gestures, then verbal noises and moving on to actual words.
(On a side note, we started teaching Hope the signs before meeting with the speech therapist. When we told the therapist which signs Hope knew, she questioned why we would want Hope to know the sign for “bib.” Hope, who was walking past the therapist as she asked the question, started patting her chest- our sign for bib.)
Since the palate repair Hope has been making all sorts of new noises and sounds. We still have to work with her to develop her muscles to get her to verbalize more. But now that she’s actually figuring out what we’re talking about, I’m really going to have to watch what I say.