:: Press-Telegram – Show and tell ::

Show and tell


Children who learn sign language are able to tell parents what they need or want before they can talk

By A.K. Whitney, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 04/02/2007

show and tell.jpgElizabeth Guerrini, with her son Christopher, uses sign language to say “good job” during her baby sign language class in Lakewood. (Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram)
IT’S BARELY 9 a.m., and most of the world seems sluggish, as people are dealing with the early switch to daylight-saving time, but the dance studio on Clark Avenue in Lakewood is full of activity.

As the morning sun bathes the wooden floor, polished by hundreds of past dancing feet, half a dozen adults, mostly women, sit in a circle on blue mats, gathered for their weekly 45-minute baby sign language class.

They sing and sign energetically at their babies. Words and their corresponding signs include sleep, eat, drink, more and change diaper. The youngest children, not being very mobile and just a little sleepy, simply stare at this entertainment. But Alina Echeverry, 1 1/2 years old, her dark hair pulled into an adorable/comical ponytail on top of her head to keep it out of her eyes, seems to be having a hard time focusing on mom Nadine.

Sure, the song is fun and the signs that go with it (all taken from the American Sign Language system) expressive, but there are so many distractions. There’s fellow baby Emma Rogers, clad in pink, right next to her. There’s a table against the wall that contains a number of fascinating objects frustratingly just out of reach for someone only a few feet tall.

And there’s a toddler named Christopher, who has broken away from his parents altogether and is busy exploring a very interesting potted plant in the corner.
However, Alina’s focus suddenly returns when Elizabeth Guerrini, who has been leading the singing and signing, gets up and walks over to the fascinating table. Guerrini gets a plastic bin full of small stuffed animals, and hands one to each child. There’s a dog, a butterfly, a whale, a spider. As Guerrini gives each child a toy, she

says its name and makes a sign. The sign for “dog” involves lifting your arm and slapping it against the outside of your upper thigh. Continue

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