:: Antioch – Taking baby steps to communication ::

Taking baby steps to communication

Ray Carter
Published 05/04/2007

Debora Granja-Enis.jpgAmy Sheridan is accustomed to receiving thrilled e-mails and phone calls from mothers like Rhonda DeMay, whose babies are making their first attempts at communication.

“Babies just a few months old can be taught to use sign language long before they are able to say words,” she said. Sheridan teaches her young clients to make signs for things like eat, drink, more, all done, sorry, thank you, please and much more. “It’s incredible how smart these little kids are,” she said, “and how proud their parents are when they learn a few signs.”

Debora Granja-Enis and Amy Sheridan operate a business called Baby Signs with Deb & Amy.

Based on National Institutes of Health research, babies are just like adults in one important way: they become frustrated when they can’t communicate with others. For a baby, those feelings of frustration are often expressed by tears and tantrums. But what if there were a way for baby to communicate needs to the mother or caregiver, have those needs fulfilled and steer clear of the tantrum? That’s where Granja-Enis and Sheridan come in. The solution involves teaching the baby and caregiver to sign.

Most of us are familiar with American Sign Language as it’s taught to hearing-impaired individuals, but who knew it would come in handy when raising a baby? Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn, co-authors of “Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk,” have conducted over two decades of research on the use of signs with hearing babies, including a long-term study. Their groundbreaking work describes the proven benefits of the Baby Signs Program.

In addition to reducing tears, tantrums and frustration, the program allows babies to share their world, increase respect, strengthen the parent-infant bond, boost self-esteem, stimulate intellectual development and, miraculously, learn to talk more easily.

Rhonda DeMay is certainly a believer in Baby Signs. “It’s the best thing possible for my son, Ethan,” she said. “He’s only 1 year old and already speaking a few words. I’m sold on the program and got introduced to it through First 5 (Contra Costa Children and Families Commission with five offices throughout the county).

Granja-Enis has degrees in Psychology and Sociology. She also has three daughters, 19, 3 and 5 months. “To begin with, I didn’t know anything about signing,” she said, “but a friend signed with her 3-year-old and there were no tantrums. I was impressed.”

Granja-Enis moved to Brentwood three years ago and began using signs with her daughter, now 3. She met Amy Sheridan through the Mothers of Brentwood organization. Sheridan had already learned sign language in order to communicate with a best friend’s deaf mother. The two women became interested in the possibility of teaching babies and their mothers to sign. That prompted Sheridan to go online in search of information on the subject. She found www.babysigns.com and the rest, as they say, is history.

Granja-Enis and Sheridan now teach Baby Signs parent workshops privately and through First 5 offices. Workshops are one-time sessions that introduce the Baby Signs movement. Kits are available for purchase that include a parent guide, two program DVDs, a Signs at a Glance flipper and My Baby Signs bookmarks. They also provide a six-week curriculum of Sign, Say & Play classes in English and Spanish that teach six or seven signs during each class. Classes include stimulating activities that support signs and learning skills. Sheridan will conduct a Story Time class at the Brentwood Library on June 20 at 10:30 a.m. She teaches signing at the Antioch Department of Parks and Recreation and will begin teaching at Brentwood’s Parks and Rec in July.

Parents interested in finding out more about Baby Signs with Deb & Amy can contact them at 759-2580 or through isign babysigns@yahoo.com.

To comment on this story, visit www.brentwoodpress.com.

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