“Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, yet 88 percent of those parents will never learn sign language.” Elise Tate, mommy influencer, creator of SignMeUp, and wife of NFL football player Golden Tate, gasped when I spouted out that fact. I could visibly see her demeanor change. Her mama sear side came out, “Umm . . . what?”
Elise and I were having a conversation over Zoom. She had contacted me to get my insight about sign language, particularly my experience with signing with my baby and toddler. She came into the discussion hoping to learn something new and share with me her experiences as well, but I don’t think she was expecting to be so rattled by that astonishing statistic.
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Elise’s love of sign language started out of necessity when she was going through a stressful situation, and she needed to be able to communicate with her daughter quickly and efficiently. This love soon turned into her passion project. She wrote and helped design a starter sign language book called Sign Me Up.
Sign Me Up is a book designed for parents to teach their children sign language as young as 6 months old or even sooner. She has plans to publish a whole series of sign language books and posters as well.
Her dream is to expand the books to be in all schools, doctors’ offices, and hospitals.
I backpedaled and went on to explain that as a teacher for the deaf and hard-of-hearing myself that although it does seem as if these parents are choosing not to learn to communicate with their children, that isn’t always the case from my experience. Some parents don’t have the time, money, or resources to invest in learning a new language. For many of these parents, they are already trying to learn English in addition to navigating a new country.
Our chat ended, and I could tell Elise was on a mission. A mission to expand her book and educational resources to all homes, classrooms, and doctors’ offices now more than ever. But our conversation got me thinking that given the benefits of sign language, why isn’t this visual language not taught more in schools? Why don’t pediatricians and hospitals suggest sign language to parents as a resource for communication? Why are there not books and resources available in all of these places?
Maybe if sign language became more normalized for all children, the parents with deaf children would have more accessibility and knowledge to learn how to sign for their children.
I have firsthand witnessed the benefits of sign language with my students and my own son, and as one mom to another, I feel compelled to share them.
Sign language is another way to make connections.
Sign language helps with communication, reading, vocabulary, and spelling.
Sign language improves behavior.
Sign language builds relationships.
Sign language is a beautiful, fun language.
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Sign Me Up’s tagline is more communication . . . less tantrums . . . happier homes. This motto is certainly true in our home and Elise’s home.
We swapped stories of our children crying and whining only for sign language to save the day seconds into their tantrums.
My son whined as I frantically looked around for what he could possibly want. Then, he signed “water,” and I was able to give him his water bottle before an all-out meltdown occurred.
Elise had a similar experience. Her son was fussy with what Elise had given him for breakfast, but after a moment, he signed cereal, and she knew she had given him the wrong choice for breakfast.
I hope every parent out there considers the benefits of sign language not just for their own kids but for the ones who really need it too. So all little kids, everywhere, have someone to laugh and talk to.