By Lexie Tigre and Michele Johansen
Published in the March/April 2013 edition of 425 Magazine
Any parent will tell you that one of the most frustrating aspects of raising children is when you can’t understand what your child wants. Infants and toddlers can throw epic tantrums when they are misunderstood. Luckily, there’s a simple and fun solution to helping young children communicate: sign language! Teaching hearing infants and toddlers American Sign Language to enhance language and communication is not a new trend, and there’s a teacher on the Eastside who can help teach you and your child to sign.
Nancy Hanauer, founder of Hop to Signaroo, has more than 20 years of teaching experience, including teaching American Sign Language to hearing families. Her original methods and curriculum have helped more than 2,000 babies learn to sign in the past 13 years of her Hop to Signaroo classes, and she’s an award-winning baby sign language teacher. As you may imagine, this make Hanauer one busy lady; yet she still manages to teach each Hop to Signaroo class herself.
Babies know what they want well before they are capable of vocalizing their desires. This can lead to intense frustration for babies, toddlers and caregivers. Amazingly, babies have the cognitive ability, memory, manual dexterity and enough understanding of language to make signing possible at as young as five months of age, according to Hanauer. She adds, “Signing with hearing babies also enhances brain and language development, motor skills, and it strengthens the parent-baby bond with early, positive communication.” In fact, in many classes, babies begin to recognize signs within two to three weeks and sign back within two to three months. One of Hanauer’s tips to parents is to use at least 12 signs as opposed to the typically recommended three signs, so parents are less likely to become bored and stop using signs and babies realize that signs are a form of communication and can be used for many things.
Four-week classes are held at Swedish Medical Centers in Redmond and Issaquah, and Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland. Four-week classes and workshops for groups are also available in your home.