Don’t Multiply Your Frustration!

Education, Family Dynamics, Infant Development, Language Development

twins_free_pixabayAs the jingle from the old Double Mint Gum commercial used to go, “Double Your Pleasure! Double Your Fun!”, and Hop to Signaroo ® would like to remind parents that they don’t need to double their frustration!

If you have or are expecting multiples, have you considered signing with your babies? Many Seattle-area families of twins, and even a few with triplets, have graduated from Hop to Signaroo ® classes and workshops. Why is signing so great for multiples? For starters, one little person is often waiting and another little person is exponentially frustrated. Additionally, signing can help with language delays that multiples sometimes experience.

New parents know it’s not always easy knowing what your little one needs or wants, until they can speak fluently. Now multiple that times two or three and parents’ frustration can double or triple along with the babies’ frustration! For all the reasons why signing is beneficial with one hearing baby, parents of multiples have even more incentive to make life calmer for everyone in the family.

Years ago, parents with a set of twins came to my class and said, “We really want to take this class because we’re afraid of the ‘secret twin language’. If there’s going to be another language used in our home, we want to be hip to it, so those two don’t start conspiring against us!” It was good to see that those doubly sleep-deprived parents had a sense of humor. What those parents may or may not have known is that “twin talk”, known as idioglossia or cryptophasia, may not actually be a secret language that only their tots can understand.

Some scientists believe that what the multiples are speaking is not an entirely new or separate language. Rather, they believe it may be delayed or diminished speech development in either one or all of the little ones who came into this world together. Even if only one of the multiples is experiencing linguistic or speech delays, the other/s may mimic these speech patterns and eventually understanding of this modified attempt at typical spoken language develops between these partners in crime, and everyone else is accidentally left out of the conversation.

In the first three years of life, one of the major functions of a little one’s brain is to learn language. Sometimes, multiples have more one-on-one communication time with each other than with anyone else in the family, including their parents who are being pulled in several different directions. Multiples may continue to communicate in this modified manner and eventually start to understand each other. It may sound like gibberish or a mutually-created language to the rest of us when, in fact, it wasn’t initially meant to be a secret code that parents wouldn’t be able to crack.

The March of Dimes has documented that in the U.S. in 2021, 8.8% of singleton births were preterm, and 63% of multiple births were preterm. The organization defines a preterm birth as any baby born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. Speech and language delays, which are common in any preterm birth, could result in what appears to be a secret code between those mysterious and fascinating little creatures who came to the planet as a set.

It’s reasonable that multiples would continue to foster close communication with each other, even if it includes using what seems to be modifications of typical speech. There’s also a theory that suggests that multiples tend to talk faster and may abbreviate their words or leave out consonants as they’re learning to talk, perhaps in a competitive attempt to talk over their sibling/s and grab their parents’ attention first. These little ones may have gone from fighting for elbow room in utero to fighting to be heard from their highchairs or car seats.

In most cases, multiples will catch up to their singleton peers by the time they head off to school. But why wait that long? As the research on signing babies has shown time and time again, babies who sign have a linguistic edge and often speak sooner. So, whether your multiple bundles of joy have a linguistic delay or not, which isn’t always evident early on anyway, why not give them an edge or simply the chance to level the communication playing field by using relevant American Sign Language vocabulary to ease everyone’s frustration and keep everyone’s language in sync? Remember, signing with all hearing babies not only gives them a jump start on language and reduces everyone’s frustration long before speech is possible, but signing also increases their overall understanding and use of language with benefits that are evident well into childhood! Check out some of the studies supporting the short-term and long-term linguistic benefits of signing with hearing babies and toddlers.

I “humbly” stand by my claim that Hop to Signaroo ® offers the finest sign language classes for hearing parents and babies for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the fact that I don’t charge extra for families of multiples. From what I’ve learned, many baby-oriented services charge families of multiples extra. That’s just wrong, in my opinion. Check out Hop to Signaroo’s ® various in-person and virtual class options and learn a skill that has been proven to make life easier for new parents and babies!

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