Friday, January 9, 2009

"Communication DOSE NOT Delay Communication"

Today we meet with Rhett's new speech therapist with the school district. I'm not a big fan of her to be honest. I have only met her once and that was when she came over for Rhett's IEP. At first she made a good impression.

-Oh Rhett's so cute...

--Oh he talks so well...

--Oh wow he can speak sentences!!

Then he went and got his binky and told me he wanted to go night night. She wasn't too keen on the idea that he had a binky at three years old. She told me I was going to cause his tongue to protrude.

--Uh hello? If he doesn't have a thick tongue and it's not protruding at three years old, it's not going to happen. Regardless of whether he has a binky or not.

You all know my stance on this. I will not take Rhett's binky away as it is his security for when he is sick and in the hospital. He only uses it at night and during nap time, unless as I stated above he is sick.

This little guy has been through 6 major surgeries in his three short years of being here. Not to mention the countless hospital stays. I think the he deserves some type of security.

So then I was on the defensive when she dropped another bomb shell that I can't even believe she said.

I was sitting on the floor with Rhett and he was asking me for something. Again it was nap time so his speech wasn't as clear as it typically is. When I couldn't understand him he started signing that he wanted to watch the trees out the window. The blinds were closed and he wanted them open.

Now me? I was uber impressed that he had communicated this to me.
Her? Well, not so much. She asked if I am still working on signing with him.

When I told her that I was, and that it takes up a good portion of our day, she told me that I need to cut back and then stop completely.

--At this point steam is coming out of my ears and I am whistling....

I calmly told her that if I hadn't been teaching Rhett sign since he was 2 months old, he would NOT be where he is today.

See I believe with my whole heart that Rhett talks as well as he does because of Signing Time. I don't think he would be talking sentences, and clearly at that, with out Signing Time. He learned his signs before he learned to say anything by mouth.

Another thing, is that he doesn't get frustrated when he can't say a word because he knows that he can always sign it if I don't understand what he is saying.

We don't have communication barrier tantrums in our house.

Rachel from Signing Time has always said that "Communication does not delay communication."

Seriously. These could very well be the wisest words ever spoken.

When Rhett was first born and we got his diagnosis of Down syndrome, the first thing I did was tell Andy that I didn't care if Rhett ever walked, or had good fine motor skills. I just wanted him to be able to communicate.

I have always focused on the communication aspect of his development before anything else. It didn't matter if he talked or signed. It was just that I wanted him to be able to tell me what he needed, to be able to tell me that he loved me, or that he was frustrated with something.

I didn't care if it was with his hands or with words. When he did it with his hands for the first time, my heart just soared. I could have stayed the happiest mom on the earth if he continued to use his hands.

Then one day out of the blue he looked at me, signed I Love You, and then said "Ahub Ooooo."

As time progressed he started saying "Aye Ahub Ooooo" and now he says, " Aye wuv you, mom."

He still uses his hands as he says it, and I always think of his words as more of icing on the cake than anything.

He uses his signs and words to create 5 and 6 word sentences. He will mix them together and go on and on and tell you a story. How can anyone not be amazed at this? How could anyone tell me that we need to stop?

See ASL is a language. If I were sitting her teaching Rhett Spanish, French or whatever, and he was doing an amazing job at learning it, people would be like "Oh wow!! A three year old with Down syndrome speaking two languages!! That's amazing~~"

This is where I don't get the whole speech therapists idea. With ASL being a language, why can't people see that Rhett IS a three year old with Down syndrome who CAN speak two languages.

See, me? I think this is nothing short of amazing.

If you have a baby, regardless of whether or not they have special needs, but especially if they have special needs, the best thing you can do for them is teach them sign language.

I cannot think of anything more important than communication, and it doesn't matter what type of form it's in.

Throughout your child's life you will buy them many toys and movies. I'm sure many, if not all will buy a bajillion Happy Meals from McDonald's within the first 3 years. Imagine if you took this money and invested it into your child's communication by purchasing some Signing Time products.

By doing this you are providing your child with a life long skill. That Happy Meal toy? Its going to be thrown away in a month anyways, and the toys from Walmart? They will be outgrown soon and discarded.

My kids have never outgrown Signing Time. We all love popping in a DVD and learning new signs. We love singing the songs when we are in the car, and my older kids love signing to Rhett. There is nothing better than the giggling that comes from them as Rhett signs something back to them.

I dunno know about you, but I think that Rhett is one awesome kid, and a smart cookie at that. It's all thanks to Rachel and her devotion to our children, and the fact that and I have, and will continue to keep pushing to keep Rhett signing.

So there, I said what was on my mind. Now you can all go back to your regularly scheduled day, and I'll get off my soapbox now.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pam, I respect that you know what is best for Rhett. Stick to your guns on this issue, after all if you don't , who will? Who knows him better than you? NO ONE!! You are Rhett's voice. I marvel at all that your family has been thru and no matter what, comes out on top. Thanks for keeping us updated on your fantastic family. God Bless! Suzy

datri said...

Communication is what it's all about! Good for you!

And Kayla's almost 5 and still has her binky. Just at home and mostly for bed. I figure she'll give it up on her own when she's ready.

Izzy 'N Emmy said...

Communication in any form counts. I think it best if you found another Therapist. What person would tell you to quit teaching Rhett to sign? Crazy! My girls learned to sign as well as speak. Signing gave them a way to show me what they wanted when I couldn't understand them. It SAVED us from having communication chaos in our house too.
Kudos to you for being such a good mommy! Say hi to Rhett from us!

Caralee said...

Seriously!! I can't believe that she would have the nerve to tell you to stop signing with Rhett. Anyone who has or worked with special children knows how important communication is regardless of how that child prefers to do it. Be it PECS, sign language, a computer or speaking, communication is communication! I have worked with countless children with special needs and a lot of them where taught sign language first! As these children learned to speak they gradually stopped using sign to communicate. Let it be up to Rhett when, if ever, he stops signing. Its not up to a stupid speech therapist that has only met Rhett once and obviously doesn't know what she is talking about! I guess that was my soap box for the day eh!

Ann said...

Pam, you are such a great advocate for you son. My mom has been teaching Special Ed for years and her biggest complaint is that there are some parents that just don't seem to care. They don't show up to IEP meetings and have to be chased down again and again for decisions about their child. You are amazing. If you have convictions about your kid stick to them. The therapist is a professional but she doesn't spend day after day with Rhett. You know him better than anyone and you know what he needs. Stand strong no professional title is more important than the title of MOM. That goes for all your kids too! You are fantastic. Blessings! And give that boy a hug for me :)

Jaxsons Fight said...

OMG, Pam dear you need to kick this women to the curb. They are even teaching kids with no delays signing first because it helps them talk sooner. And my kids all had binkys and I let them get rid of them on their own time. Stick to those guns on this crazy women. Hugs from Jax

Niksmom said...

I can't write the things I think about that SLP since it's a family blog. So I'll just write that I think she's an ill-trained idiot. Seriously. Every SLP I've ever met agrees taht communication is what's important. Communication using a method which gives Rhett (or any kid) confidence that s/he can be understood and included.

Seriously? If she continues to push it, I would write a letter of complaint to the school district and send a copy to the Utah Speech & Hearing Association (oversees SLP's in UT --

jkribbit said...

It drives me crazy when doctors don't believe that I know my body better than they do - I think it's the same with you. Of course you know your son best! And the fact that he is using two languages is amazing!

Also, when you blogged about cloth diapers I left a link for you to check out - Adventures in Babywearing. Well, Stephanie is doing a whole post all about her switch to cloth diapers and how it's going and what to get. The link is:

I just thought it might be useful information. Good luck!

Shari said...

This was very well-written and I completely agree with you. I don't know about that ST though. Don't let her push you around! I started using signs with my children when they were very small so when they couldn't speak they could try and sign. We still use it sometimes and they all can speak now. ASL is a language. You are righ! And, communication is communication regardless of which language you use. You are such a GREAT Mom Pam! You are an inspiration to me and I give you the utmost respect for how you are doing with your kids. Love you.

Ally in Wonderland said...

Go you. Even from this ranting post you can see YOU have great communication, writing skills, grammar, etc. So of course you would do everything possible to make sure you children inherit such a VALUABLE skill. Tell that woman from one professional in the field to another--she's a crackpot and her professors didn't teach her the right things. might say it nicer.

(sorry, she got me riled up too, just reading that)

Jake & Stephanie Ellinger said...

How WONDERFUL to know I'll be working with her in a couple of years! Santa brought the baby signing time to our house for Christmas. Nathan loves it! Even better, so does his 4 year old sister who is as healthy as can be. Its cute and I don't get tired of listening to it. Who does she think she is?!!!

Besides, MOM always knows best.

Kei said...

Amen my friend! ASL also helps with literacy~ I know that learning to sign w/Signing Time is the main reason William is such a great reader and can spell so well.

As for speaking~ I really think it's why William speaks as well as he does too. And when he gets hurried and his words run together or he doesn't enunciate well enough for us to understand, he goes back to signing, whether using a sign or fingerspelling, to completely communicate what he is saying. Like the other day when William was frustrated that Robert didn't understand what he was saying, William fingerspelled, "M.I.N.U.T.E...M.E.N".. he wanted to watch the Minutemen movie on Disney.

Keep on Signing Rhett!

Kyla said...

Exactly! I don't know if my KayTar would have EVER learned to speak without signing. It flipped a switch on for her. It was amazing. She lost 3 sets of words before we started using sign, then once the signs gave way to words, they stuck. Finally. I know there is debate about the issue, but I wholeheartedly believe it made the difference for my girl.

Anonymous said...

You are right, Pam. I have been teaching special education for over 10 years and there is no proof that using signs, pecs or any other aug comm method decreases spoken language. In fact, its quite the opposite. There is even a whole subset of applied behavior therapy that teaches language starting with signs. I've used it and it is very very effective. Check out Vincent Carbone, Mark Sundberg, or ABBLs.

Some kids abilities to speak varies daily based on a variety of factors (ex. illness or anxiety) and they should absolutely have the easiest way for them to communicate available at all times. I get so frustrated with professionals who think that because a kid can "speak" they don't need other methods of communication. Especially for kids who's ability to speak out loud doesn't match their receptive language or desire to be understood.

Anonymous said...

That is ridiculous. Get a new speech therapist she obviously knows nothing. When I used to work with non-verbal autistic kids we used sign to ENCOURAGE speaking. If a child has a way of communicating they are willing to try other ways. I saw children who went from not communicating to learning sign to speaking rather quickly. Signing facilitates the development of language. I am fluent in sign, I got into grad school with that as my second language, she knows nothing. Rhett is an impressive little boy. That woman is not cool.

Amy said...

I completely agree about Signing Time. We still watch it. Both of my kids used a binky well past 3 years old. Who cares about the binky? That is so off the radar of issues to worry about. Fire the ST and forget about the binky.

AZ Chapman said...

Wow looks like it will be interesting tot see what happens tif were to come back, Take it from me if y have a bad ST then the child is not going to learn and will not try as hard if if he had a good one

the RaMbLeR said...

You go girl! That is the craziest thing I have ever heard! I cant even begin to figure out where she would get such a crazy idea. Sign language IS another language...I took it as my required foreign language in high school.

I hope you don't let HER get to you! You would not want to take something that important from Rhett...and, I wouldn't worry about the binky either. My oldest had his (all 10-15)until well after he was 3. We let him take 'baby steps' when he felt comfy to give it up. My middle child did the same with his blankie. Whatever soothes and makes them feel safe.

my--four--sons said...

I couldn't agree with you more. We would never have survived without using the singing time videos. Back when we used the videos there were only three volumes now I am amazed at how many options there are.

Brent & Jodie said...

OH. MY. UTTER. NIGHTMARE! I can not believe she said that about signing. What the HE** kind of speech therapist is she? HOLY FREAKING COW! Sorry, this one really fires me up! (Can you tell? LOL) Ty's speech therapist actually has a dual degree in deaf education. Obviously she is a huge advocate of sign. His school, which is a private school for kids with special needs, uses sign in every single class! They even teach a signing class for parents and care givers two times a year. Honestly, this woman has no freaking clue. I am so proud of you for sticking to your guns! Seriously...stop signing with him....WHATEVER!

little.birdy said...

Your speech therapist doesn't read the literature. There is no evidence that sign language delays verbal communication, and even some evidence that it speeds it along! Rhett actually demonstrated a great skill when you couldn't understand him; he switched languages to repair a communication breakdown. This is extremely awesome, as is your kid. Lack of communication frustration is a big step, and will motivate him to continue to communicate. I can pass along the scholarly evidence about sign language to you if you want, and then you can best her with mommy instincts and SCIENCE! I'm right up there on the soap box with you! (I'm in school to be a speech therapist ;))

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

Yep I think you need a new ST. Kennedy too, speaks well because of Signing Time. No one will EVER convince me differently. She doesn't sign too much anymore unless we do it for fun, but we too still watch the DVDs ALL the time and sing the songs and love learning new signs. Heck I bought the two newest Baby Signing Times just because I want the whole set! LOL (Uhh... for the kids of course lol). Good for you, stick to your guns! And let the boy have his binkie. I'm sure if that ST had been through what Rhett's been through she would want a binkie too!

Amy said...

Hi Pam,

Amy, Quinn's mom here. I think that Rhett is doing fabulous! Don't stop what you are doing, no matter what anyone says. Can you share what you do though? You said that you still spend a good part of your day working on signs. What do you do to "work" on signs? Quinn isn't signing or talking and doesn't seem interested either, do you have any tips and can you share what you did/do with Rhett?
Thanks, Amy

My Three Sons said...

Where exactly did she get her degree from? Carson has learned so much from watching signing times. The other day he asked me to draw him a train and I did. Then he asked me for a bridge and then wanted mountains. Where the heck did a two year old who lives in the flat midwest learn about mountains? He has picked up so many words since he has been watching ST and it has helped him advance. Carson also goes to so many doctors and they are all impressed with his signing and spanish. So should I stop having Carson learn Spanish as well????

I think that Rhett learning to sign not only helps you out, but builds his confidence because he doesn't have to get frustrated.

Can you find a new ST?

momtojesse said...

Amen to that Pam! I think that speech therapist needs to go. I can't believe anyone would say ASL should stop.

Herrin Family said...

I missed this post and would have been up on that soap box with you!!! After 25 years as a professional interpreter, I get asked A LOT to help facilitate the gap between a speech theraptists unwillingness or lack of knowledge regarding sign language and the parents/childs wishes. I spend a lot of time attending sessions with Therapists who missed the communication boat by not integrating sign into their educational curriculum. 25 years later and the battle is still being waged for total communication. What works WORKS! Let's look at these kids as!

Rachel Coleman said...

Hey Pammy ;) - I know I've told you before, when we found out Leah was DEAF people warned us about signing with her (sigh) morons. I guess that particular soap box is big enough for us all to stand on. Nice job.

Let your SLP know you aren't going to budge and that you will insist they hire a new one for Rhett if she insists on pushing your son to REGRESS in his communication.

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