A Little Off the Top

The Absolutely Everything I Have Learned About Speech Delays Entry

This one is going to be all boring gritty speech delay details, y'all, with assvice and requests for further assvice and probably a minimum of I-got-drunk-and-fell-down-ness, even though I DID fall down this weekend and still have gravel in my palm. I wasn't drunk, I was just running late for a showing of the latest Harry Potter movie (and of course by "latest" I mean "the one that came out months ago") and I tripped and fell off my so-last-season shoes.

(Request for Non-Speech-Delay Assvice: How do you get teeny little specks of gravel out of your palm, especially after the skin seems to have healed right over them? And if there is no way to get it out short of re-slicing your hand open, is there any harm in leaving it there, i.e. setting off metal detectors at the airport?)

ANYWAY. Most of you can probably skip this entry, and just let us speech-delay-type people talk amongst ourselves. (There is a really lame joke somewhere in that sentence, but I AM NOT HERE FOR JOKES TODAY PEOPLE. I AM NOT YOUR MONKEY.)


Part the First: Fish Oil? Le Fuck?

This is something we researched on our own and decided to try. (Translation: neither our pediatrician nor the Early Intervention folks mentioned it.) Not that it's some kind of crazy New Age moonshine quackery, or anything. It's good ole' cod liver oil.

The book The Late Talker (which is excellent, by the way, and echoes most of what our speech therapy has taught us) has a ton of info on the benefits for speech-delayed children. Fish oil is high in essential fatty acids -- omega-3s, DHA, all that jazz. If you formula-fed, you probably remember seeing DHA stamped all over the packaging. Breast milk has it too, although I doubt your boobs were similarly labeled. DHA is good for the nervous system, and thus, fish oil is suggested for children with neurological problems -- SPD, autism, apraxia, etc. Since we suspected Noah's speech delay was, in part, neurologically based, we opted to add more fatty acids to his diet. These are naturally found in oily fishy fish, but of course: 1) mercury is also found in oily fish, and 2) not many two-year-olds really dig sardines.

Luckily, thanks to Whole Foods and other vitamin/health-food-type places, you can easily find flavored versions that 1) are independently purity tested for mercury, and 2) taste like candy! Sort of. We've tried Spectrum's lemon-flavored Cod Liver Oil and Coromega's orange-flavored version. Both can be easily hidden in juice, although the thicker and tangier the juice, the better. Once again, Trader Joe's Green Plant Sludge Juice Product to the rescue. You can hide ANYTHING in that shit, people. For real. I've also mixed it into jars of tart-flavored baby food (mango, banana, etc.) and then added that to regular juices. (The oil tends to separate from watery juices unless you thicken them up.)

We give Noah one teaspoon daily. You can also try flaxseed oil if your child is allergic to fish or rejects the flavored versions. Talk to your doctor. All warranties on Amalah-branded advice are void where prohibited, which is to say everywhere.

Part the Second: Sippy Cups With Straws? Le Fuckity Fuck?

A lot of smart smart commenters with experience in speech delays and Early Intervention mentioned this one to me early on: get rid of sippy cups with spouts and switch to straws. This was also the first piece of advice we got from the speech pathologist who evaluated Noah.

I've mentioned that Noah's pronunciation is odd, and his mouth positions are not quite right -- even when he says words he's "mastered." He says Mama very clearly, but it's nasal, and his top teeth jut over his bottom lip. This is not the proper (or easiest!) way to produce the M sound. (Say it yourself to see what I mean.) He doesn't want to put his lips together, which makes saying a whole lot of words a whole lot harder.

The idea behind the straws is to flex those mouth muscles and get his tongue out of the way. The speech pathologist even did a doodle for us about the position of the mouth and tongue when drinking from a spout sippy cup and how it's all wrong for speech. (Although let me interject that your choice of sippy cup is SO NOT A BIG DEAL if your child is not speech delayed. Don't freak out and panic because your 13-month-old can't use a straw yet. Don't go filing a class-action lawsuit against the Playtex Insulator. This is one of those "if you suspect a problem, give this a shot" sort of things.)

Other activities we do for Noah's mouth muscles include: blowing bubbles, whistles and kazoos, applying Chapstick and making an exaggerated mmmmmmmwa-lipsmack kind of sound, and the whole facial-expressions-in-the-mirror thing.

Part the Third: Have You Tried Talking To Your Kid, Dumbass?

Obviously, we've always talked to Noah. We read books, we sing songs, we use words and gestures and ask questions and all that good stuff. But it clearly wasn't working.

My friend Julie can literally teach her son Max new words in about five minutes. She repeats the word a few times and then asks him to say it. And without fail, he parrots it back and within a day or two is using it correctly and spontaneously on his own. And my heart would HURT, y'all, because I would try the same thing with Noah for hours and days on end with no results. I didn't understand what I was doing wrong, or even worse: I didn't understand what was wrong with Noah.

The short answer is that I was not approaching language in a way that worked for Noah, and duh, there was NOTHING wrong with Noah except that he is Noah and not Max. Noah needs repetition of sounds, not words. He is hesitant to try new sounds, and without mastering new sounds there is simply no way he can attempt new words. Max has a natural knack for mimicry, while Noah is fighting those underdeveloped mouth muscles, so we were frustrating him with our constant requests to "say plane! can you say plane?" He couldn't say plane because he couldn't make the P sound, and why should he work so hard on the P sound when he can just call a plane a "na" and get his point across?

So life in our home is now life with that guy from Police Academy who did all the sound effects. Everything makes a sound. Whoosh! Crash! Zip! Pop! Everything is BIG and EXAGGERATED. When we blow bubbles we jump on them and run after them and yell POP at the top of our lungs. Noah thinks this is HILARIOUS, and I swear to God, 15 minutes after his first therapy session I managed to get him to say POP along with me. We'd gone through probably 17 bottles of bubbles in his little life and yet it never occurred to me to focus on POP instead of BUBBLE.

(He says bubble now too. *headsmack*)

We also hold words back from him. Everything is a fill-in-the-blank quiz, and instead of rushing to give him the word (provided it's something we know he knows already), we stay silent and wait for him to say or sign it. If he can't, we wait for him to look at us before we say it. The best time to do this is when we're reading a familiar book or singing a familiar song.

For example: Noah knows Goodnight Moon by heart, but we used to hold him on our lap, facing away from us. We would say the word ("Goodnight...light") and he would point to the correct object on the page. Great for cognition, but it's a lousy approach for communication.

Now we read it facing each other. We say, "Goodnight...." and wait for him to volunteer the next word. If he doesn't, we wait until he's looking at our face. "Light." That way he's watching our lips form the word. Sure, there's something not so cozy about reading books standing up while Noah sits on the changing table, but hey, kids love thinking they know something you don't, so if pretending that I have no damn clue whether the little house or the young mouse comes next gets Noah to talk, so be it.

Part the Fourth: Sign Language & Me & My Mea Culpa

Yes, we probably all remember me and the Bilingual Sign Language Genius Child at Gymboree and how her pushy, over-achieving mother bugged me. Yes, we all know that I was very wrong and mean and yes, of course I have wondered if pursuing baby sign language early on might have saved us from a lot of stress and frustration. I feel terrible that I let my own prejudices against the type-A supermoms keep me from trying out something that Noah clearly connects with and benefits from.

It's another example of how having any type of parenting "belief" is often a one-way ticket to parenting folly. If you wholeheartedly subscribe to a particular approach -- be it co-sleeping, CIO, extended breastfeeding, spanking, whatever -- I can pretty much guaran-goddamn-tee that you will birth a child who will end up benefiting from the polar opposite of what you believe is the "right" way to do things.

But what's done is done. The important thing is that Noah is picking up more and more signs every day and all I have to do is ask him if it's signing time (move your index fingers in a circle, point at invisible watch) and he jumps up and down and runs to the TV and starts flapping his hands and fingers all over the place. It's like the ASL equivalent of jabberwocky.

Some assvice about Signing Time:

1) If your child is over 12 months, skip the Baby Signing Time DVDs and go directly to My First Signs. Noah was beyond underwhelmed by Baby Signs, which is very tinkly and quiet and features babies doing the signs, but was instantly hooked on the regular series, which has catchier music and bigger kids. Noah LOVES bigger kids. Bigger kids are worth imitating. (I'm giving the Baby Signs DVDs to a friend with a newborn, and I'm sorry to every woman who will ever have a baby within my social circle: You are getting Signing Time DVDs and a panty, wild-eyed sermon from me.)

2) Watch the DVDs with your kid, brainiac. Don't put a new DVD on and walk away, because your child will later start signing something that he learned from that DVD and you'll be all...uhhhh... Not that this...happened...to me...or anything.

3) It takes Noah about three viewings before I start seeing new signs. He'd certainly be happy just watching My First Signs over and over and over again, but since we have the whole set I feel obligated to switch it up. Plus I might shoot myself if I have to listen to the Silly Pizza song again. We watch one DVD a day, right after his nap. I always do the signs, and then I tap his chest to indicate "Noah's turn" and give him the chance to try. Like his speech, he generally doesn't try new signs until he feel he can do them perfectly (I've caught him practicing alone in his room, using his picture books) (*bites knuckle from the adorableness*). The signs he picks up the fastest are the ones I use the most, so be ready to use signs whenever possible and to nag your significant other about using them too, because COME ON, DON'T MAKE ME THE ONLY IDIOT OVER HERE.

Now I have a question for...hmmm...well, for the four people who have probably made it this far without falling asleep. Noah wants more signs. We haven't made it through the entire DVD collection since I don't want to overwhelm him, but in just day-to-day life he is constantly gesturing that he wants to know the sign for things that I label for him. Like, now that he knows the sign for milk, cheese, apple, banana and cracker, he wants the sign for pasta. And tomato. And rice. He knows the sign for car, but what about bike? That's a bike, Mama, not a car. We're definitely not at finger-spelling yet, and I am clueless. Is there a good book or online resource where I can look signs up that aren't on the DVDs? And quickly? And possibly on an iPhone?



What a great post. I'm an elementary early intervention teacher and so you were speaking my, albeit dorky, language!

If you can't find the "right" signs, I say make them up! Seriously, we didn't do a ton of sign with my son (now a Kindergartner Holy Crap) but we made up a few that worked for us. As long as you know and he knows what it means - you're golden!

Happy times. Yipee to you and Noah.


Wow, cool. Thanks for the tips. Thanks to some previous posts of yours, we actually did get some straw-only cups and have been playing around with those. But we're not panicking about the sippy ones either.

I don't sign with my daughter (yet, at least, because I'm lazy) but I have read a book or two and animals and toys seems to be a biggy. Maybe it's time for another trip to the zoo (oh no! not the zoooo!).

angela h

This was a great post. You gave me information that I really didn't want to look up on my own. My son is not showing any of these signs, but you have given me an idea what I could expect if he has a problem. Thank you for that. I love to read your blog and I enjoy your other blogs as well, especially the advice smackdown.


Hey - I can't believe I scrolled to the bottom to see if you posted a picture. :-) I'll read the rest at home tonight, promise.

Here's the set I bought, and it comes with a book, a dvd, and a quick and dirty flashcard for those who don't want to read and think alot. (me) Got a bright idea and took it to daycare lady, hoping she would work on it with all 6 kids together. Thought it would be great! fun! for everyone! When I asked about it 4 weeks later, she didn't recall, and had to look for it. Nice. I have talked to a few friends who love this one.



I know NOTHING about signing. Because I was one of those moms who vowed to never do it. Because it was 'stupid'. And yes, now I am wishing I had devoted time to it. I thank you for the advice on the straws, though. I will most certainly be trying that ASAP.

I do know about having foreign objects in your body, ie gravel. When I was 10, I wiped out bad on my bike. BAD. It hurt, so I didn't clean it out very good. I had tiny piece of gravel in my knees for a few years (which came out only after re-wounding the same area). It never caused a problem, and actually was a source of great amuzement for fellow middle schoolers.


Oh god, you asked for RESOURCES not KINDS OF SIGNS. Sorry. The book I read was...soemthing like..."Baby Signs" (sorry!) By the original author of the signing trend (sorry again!)


I don't really have any assvice (use a needle on the skin for the gravel stuck in your palm. Use peroxide after!)

I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your blog and it's funny how we (teh internet) gets attached to your life and family. I know it's probably not easy sharing all your thoughts and situations with us, but I really enjoy embarking on a new stage in your and Noah's life.

Ok enough suking up.

Veronique from Canada


Oh yeah - and a tip for those wanting to teach a reeeally young kid to use a straw for the first time... dip the straw in the water/juice/whatever, and put your finger on the top for suction. Then put in said kid's mouth, and release your finger from the top to let the drink in. I started this with my kid at maybe 9 months?? and it just took about 2-3 tries for him to figure it out. (as opposed to thinking this was a new chew toy).



or the tiny version...


I love this site. There is a little video with each sign so you can see it done correctly.

Barb in Ohio

My son, Cameron, has a speech delay (they're calling it Apraxia of Speech) and has been receiving services from our school district since he turned 3 last year--and what a difference it has made!

We've been sigining with him since about 18 months and if you google "american sign language video dictionary" you'll get a ton of sites. I found http://www.aslpro.com/ to be pretty good but I know there are tons more out there.

Good luck and congrats on the great progress!


I haven't gotten past part 2 yet because I'm laughing so hard at "le fuckity fuck?" And I desperately want my husband to ask me what from the other room what I'm laughing so hard about because I KNOW he can hear me. But he doesn't really care.

However, I do thank you on his behalf for cheering me up today with that - now I will go on to read the rest.


I'm glad that things are progressing so well with the speech therapy. I think I would just burst into tears seeing my little dude practicing his signs--what a sweet, lovely boy you have.

I like this site for its sign dictionary: mybabycantalk.com. It's limited, but most of the words it has are things that younger kids are interested in anyway. (I found the facial expressions on one of the general ASL dictionaries to be a little axe-murderer-esque; these are definitely a little more baby-friendly.)


(said with the "I'll call him George and love him and pet him and hug him" voice from Looney Tunes)

Aww, you're such a good mom!

Fer reals. Good job.


"I can pretty much guaran-goddamn-tee that you will birth a child who will end up benefiting from the polar opposite of what you believe is the "right" way to do things."
AMEN, AMALAH! This is the only assvice I ever give new parents now. Whatever you think your non-negotiable high horse is, your child arrives to kick that right in the ARSE.

I love all this developmentally- appropriate parenting talk because I am a teacher. And a dork.


Also, fish oil is good for every person on the planet, so have some yourself.


I have to second the MSU site for sign language. I referenced it daily when my son first started pre-school. (He's autistic.)
One of the great tips his pre-school teachers taught me was to not automatically make things easy for Drew. As a busy mom it was just second nature to get out the yogurt, take off the lid, grab a spoon and put it in front of him. Nope....wrong. The best thing to do? Get out the yogurt, plop it in front of him with the lid on. He'll notice, and will obviously want it off. Perfect opportunity to teach "open" or "off". Also, forget the spoon. Again, perfect opportunity to teach him to ask for a spoon. I did this all the time, in various situations. I'd only put a sip or two of juice in his cup, he quickly learned to ask for "more juice please". It seems cruel, but it really really works.
It was amazing how quickly Drew learned language and how to communicate, it seems once the ball (or aball) was rolling, it never stopped. I'm sure you'll see a language explosion in no time!




And more specifically:


Should be able to bookmark the site on your iPod and find the needed word on the go! :)

PS I don't recommend making signs up though, as someone suggested. Cuz, uh, it's an actual language. I don't think a sign-language equivalent of "Spanglish" would be that effective out there in that real world. Sort of like shouting Bike-O in Mexico... :)


We really liked the 'My Baby Can Talk' videos. There is a website:
Click on the bear at the top for the dictionary of signs. Some of the signs you are looking for are there and they are demonstrated with a video.

Nice post. Thank you.


The MSU site is great, but another, more kid based one is www.signwithme.com .

I also use my little dictionary quite a bit. Seems like I know so many, and then a parent will ask for one that I totally don't know, so it's nice to have something handy that I can take from house to house.

Vaguely Urban

I'm childless, and this was fascinating. Good on you for getting down to brass tacks and lots and lots of work!

Three cheers for the Hightower family: Yay! Woot! ZING!

Melissa C

I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but have you tried ASL pro online? It’s like a good sign language dictionary, but they act it out for you. I have no kids. I don’t know anything about speech delay, but in college I had a few deaf friends. I went from knowing nothing my freshman year to filling in for the interpreter if she couldn’t make it to an evening church service or meeting.


I hope that helps you. I really enjoy your blog, but have never commented before. Thanks.


I started signing with my son before signing became popular and there weren't a lot of options about which videos to purchase and watch. We made up our signs. We weren't trying to teach him ASL, we were facilitating communication between us. It didn't matter that he couldn't make himself 'heard' in the deaf community. It wasn't about that. I agree with the person who suggested making them up if you can't find them or if they're too complicated for a toddler to reproduce. My son doesn't remember his signs, he doesn't need to, and try to get him to be quiet for five freakin' minutes!


we took a class w/ Michael called baby signs w/ Andrea. Maybe see if someone does toddler signs. I already gave our materials away tough.


Great post. I have a daughter only a few weeks older than Noah (today is her birthday!), no speech delay but you still held my attention the entire post. Another tasty source for Omega 3's - Odwalla Bars. My kid LOVES them and is constantly asking for BARS. She's allergic to dairy and nuts and eggs, so there aren't many things she can actually eat that I can buy at the store for times on the run. Might be another option for you. Don't know how many mg of Omega 3's you are giving Noah per day, but these have 1000mg. Berries GoMega is the favorite around here.


Hey, look at that! You *do* have more than four readers.

Is baby signing based on ASL? Because if so, here are the 100 most common signs:



That was a great post, assvice and all. As for the gravel, my husband has a piece of gravel in his shoulder. It is the size and color of a mole. I used to beg to slice him open and pop it out but he always refused. Our Dr said it was fine and our kids think it's cool. And when you share injury stories it will impress everyone. Unless it hurts.

And, when you mentioned Max I thought you were talking about your cat and thought it was quite odd that you were comparing Noah to the cat. Then I realized Max was Noah's friend. And I realized I was the idiot, not you.


I would have suggested the websites above, so... awesome! My work is done!

I also want to agree with those who have suggested making up your own signs. Do it if it works better for you. He's not deaf, he won't have to live in the deaf community. Not only that, but sign language is so colloquial- the sign you use in DC may be totally different than the sign in California. No big deal. You being able to communicate with your son? Obviously a big deal!


The absolute best site ever is http://www.aslpro.com

It has EVERYTHING. Not just words but also conversational phrases about every topic you could imagine.

I can now say "My internet connection is down." Also, and more importantly, "Extra cheese on my sandwich please."


I have read your blog for over 6 months now and it's pretty sad that this is what I chose to comment about. The gravel in the palm should be just fine. I have little chips of glass in my palm since high school (let's just say it's been over 10 years) Unless it gets infected, the skin just grows over it and you just have funny bumps and if those are the only funny bumps you have on your body you're golden.
I love the pics of Noah and I am taking notes for when I (hopefully soon) have one of my own. And you crack me up - especally the fat dog blogs....

Lisa L.

I haven't written since I diagnosed Noah with a yeast-type diaper rash a long time ago.

Our speech therapist told us to stop adding signs when we reached about 25 of them and he could get his basic needs met. She didn't want to take away his desire to do the hard work of learning the sounds necessary to put words together eventually. There were no DVD's then. Everyone thought I was crazy at stores and parks. This was in 1999. The signs got us through the hard times. My kids still sign "sorry" when they apologize to each other. It's the last hold out from signing and it is sweet to be reminded of how far we've come. Especially when they are being sweet and apologizing for something (like stealing each other's Legos or saying something uncharitable).

Anyway- my middle son is now 9yo. He was completely mute-hypotonic-autism spectrum- SID, etc.

He is now perfect, better than perfect even, in most ways except for things that are normally annoying in kids his age anyway.
That's after 3 years of intense therapy including turning my house into an apparent therapy center with me as 24-7 therapist of all trades.

So beyond worth it all. I am a better parent for it. My child's diction is fantastic. It is pitch perfect to the point that people would ask me how he spoke so clearly in Kindergarten. It's because he learned every sound he knows from a master's trained SLP! Can't say that for most of us. He's totally ready to read the news, and has been since he was like 5. My baby who they said would be in special ed for elementary school and still might not speak in sentences at 5yo. I can't wait for you all to be on the other side of all this. These will be such sweet, sweet memories. Seriously. These are the times that make us realize how much we truly love our children and would move any mountain for them.

Enjoy it!


ps- ASL signs are often too hard for little ones to perform correctly. We learned modified versions of most from our SLP.


Hi, just wanted to add I highly recommend nordic natural's children's dha. They are chewable cod liver oil capsules that my kid eats like candy. Seriously, they are used for rewards for potty training in place of M & Ms. (But, please make sure your kids chew these, I could see how they would have the potential to be choking hazards). Oh, also, childlife essentials is a liquid dha supplement that is butterscotch flavored. It is a good addition to oatmeal, etc.


I wholeheartedly second the aslpro site and the MSU site. I like the MSU site better because it explains the sign, much like the videos do.


This is not, strictly speaking, helpful, but I wanted to tell you you're amazing. Noah is lucky to have such a pro-active and committed mom.


No words of assvice here, sorry. But I just wanted to say that I think you're doing a FANTASTIC job with Noah! I think with everything kid-related you need to find what works for you and your child and you're doing just that. It took a huge step to admit there might be a problem with him and to seek help. I commend you for doing that and for being open to try new things to help him learn!

I'm sure you've heard it before but I think you're an awesome Mom and doing a great job! Noah is extremely fortunate to have someone who cares so much and is willing to go to such great lengths to do what's best for him. That is, in my opinion, the greatest gift you could give your child!


I can help!! Go to this website:

It's exactly what you need, it has an index, you go to the word you want (dirty ones, even, teehee), and it describes how to do then has a video of a woman making the sign.

Yes, yes, I *am* the answer to your prayers ;)

adele Richards

Yey. So proud of you. You are doing so well.

Also am biting knuckle and trying not to tear up at the thought of Noah in his room practicising his signs. How adorable is that exactly?


This is by far the best resource I've found for ASL signs:


Do keep in mind that there can be some slight and some major differences in signs. Just as there can be several different words for one item (for instance, the thing on the top of a soda bottle can be a cap, a lid, or the top), there can be more than one sign for an item. I know that I have looked for a sign online and then ended up seeing it in a Signing Time DVD and they weren't always the same. However, my daughter has not had an issue. We usually switch over to the Signing Time version and stick with that one with little incident.

Glad you're enjoying Signing Time! We love it! And you might want to skip ahead to "My Day" and "My Neighborhood" to get to some really practical signs rather than going through them in order.

Mama T

Second vote for

Very interesting reading. I'd never thought of "pop" instead of "bubble" either but really, POP is way more fun that bubble.


Thanks for the great advice (not assvice to me!), Amalah. I hope you can still sign tomorrow after all this typing.


So who wants to let me in on some magical straw cups that don't dribble ceaselessly onto the carpet when inverted? Because that is all my 13 month old has wanted to do since she discovered it. I have tried the Playtex Sport Insulator, which seemed dribble-proof the first few times, but after being washed a lot, it is awful. I tried the Munchkin straw cup (that has Dora on it) and that one dribbles as well. Whole milk upsets her tummy, so she drinks soy milk, and OH MY GOSH THE YELLOW STAINING PEOPLE.

Anyway, sorry to bust in here, just hoping someone knows something I don't about these things!


Try the book The Joy of Signing. It's a sign language dictionary and is ridiculously comprehensive and is considered definitive by the deaf community, so it should have tomato and hair dryer and "Please, mom, keep your iphone away from the toilet kthanxbai." And tequila.


(1) Black Salve (aka Drawing Salve, aka icthammol) smells gross and stains if you get it on anything, but it will pull absolutely anything out.
(2) Totally getting the picture that Noah is a perfectionist. (I can not believe he was practicing signs in private. My kind of boy.) Do yourself a favor and research strategies for dealing with it when he starts school. The kindest thing my mother ever did for me was take a couple session class about raising a perfectionist child while I was in elementary school. I still use the things she used to say to me then when I'm on the verge of freaking out about nothing now.


I second/third, whatever the als.pro site.

I did the signing thing without the video's (because I am very broke and very cheap!) But I found that site was a great resource. Anytime my son seemed interested in something, I'd head to the computer to find the sign.

Also, you made me laugh so hard that my husband downstairs thinks I've lost it AGAIN!


Is my kid the one who had goals regarding drinking pudding through a straw on her IEP? I'd help out every couple of weeks in her speech preschool class and they were always working the pudding. Poor kids started to hate pudding as a result.

I'm so glad Noah is having such great success. Reading this really makes me wish I'd snapped out of denial earlier with my youngest. You're doing an awesome job with him.



I am so glad to hear that Noah is growing and changing with the extra support! How exciting.

Everyone has recommended the sites I would recommend. However, I also suggest if you have the time or a nearby sc hool that offers a signing class, you might check into it.

I took sign language as my foreign language in college, and there's not better way to pick it up than to be thrown into a class where no one is allowed to speak. OMGosh, I totally almost died..because, talk..I loves to talk.

But, that was what made my signing vocab much bigger and better. And you can learn curses to use against Jason so that he'll be motivated to learn more signs. heh.

Maxine Dangerous

I love this entry. I am child-free but interested in having kids ... someday. Your stories are so heartwarming and the visual of Noah practicing signs in his room made me make the *SQUEE!* noise on the inside.

I wish I could help with the ASL but it looks like you've got a lot of good recommendations to get you started. I, too, thought you were asking for signs instead of resources and I thought of the few words I know, like "beautiful" and "morning" (which, hey, look what comes in handy when put together!). I can also spell my first name, which no one but, um, me cares about and I can say "slutty lesbian biker bitch." Hey, it would make a fun video of entry learning about different, um, cultures. :D

Maxine Dangerous

Entry = Noah

English. I speak it.


I don't know if this has been posted, but it's a great website for signs, http://www.signwithme.com/002_browse_signs.asp


I'm a labor and delivery nurse, and every time something starts to go awry with people's plans for labor - especially those people who, like myself, spent hours devising the perfect birth plan - I remind them that the first and most important lesson of parenthood is realizing that life is no longer under your control. Flexibility and a willingness to admit we don't know what the fuck happens next is the secret of motherhood, and it sounds like you've learned it.


You're a really great amama (I'm sure Jason's great too but let's face it, this is YOUR blog and it's all about YOU darnit).

Kids Noah's age in day care play in the quad at my school and they are too cute but big N is cuter.


I was so touched hearing about Noah practicing his signs. I second (or third) the person who said that you give us a peek into your life and we can get attached. (Didn't mean to sound so stalkery. For reals.)

yet another from the legions of Amys

I refer to this site a lot:



I third the asl pro website. Quick, easy and if you don't like the sign they give or this its too hard, just make up your own and stick with it. He will not know the difference if its ASL or not, he'll be thrilled to learn it and used it on his own.

Mrs Butter B

Hey, solution to the reading quandary- buy yourself 10 dollar beanbags, parketh your childeth ineth one, and you in the other, and read away. It makes you almost eye level, and really makes it a "fun" time- comfy and cozy.

and kudos to you for not freaking out or giving up. You're an awesome parent! (and we the internet world are so proud of you!)

not to sound cheesy, but somedays, it just seems so easy to give up and say screw it, let the child go to headstart. Not that I've done that. But, just saying. Yeah. Anyway.


Sorry, no assvice here. But I wanted to thank you. I'm starting to wonder if my 15 mo old is going to be a "late talker" and I've been wanting to know what you've been doing w/ Noah (but would have never asked!). Thank you so much for sharing this info Amy!


I can see you've received a lot of replies and recommendations for sites.
We use: http://www.aslpro.com/
Our son is a year and a half and just starting to pick up some signs. I wish we'd been more diligent about teaching/learning signs earlier on, but it's handy now. Yesterday, Henry made the sign for 'love' as I put him down for a nap. *wah!*


just wondering... somewhere around may/the Bible thumper smack you started dropping ya'll. stuck with your amala style. you seem to be reaching and let's face it with all the cursing, the ya'll is just not a good fit for you. were you at big mama's? - she has a natural style with it and she is a ya'll. :) great ideas with noah. whatever works right.


We used "The Art of Sign Language" by Christopher Brown. A sort of sign language dictionary. Good luck!


Time for reinforcements, woman. Our local high school teaches ASL. My oldest son picked up some signs from a friend when he was about 18 mos old, and I wanted to encourage it.

So I called the school and asked if any of their advanced students would be interested in a tutor gig for ten bucks an hour, one or two hours per week.

Five years later, she still comes one night per week and my kid can sign almost as fluently as he talks (he totally has a crush on her and I think he harbors secret dreams of marrying her one day).

He or she can teach you all of the toddler-friendly signs (animals, alphabet, vehicles, park signs, you name it).


JustWondering: Soooo not really getting what you're getting at there, but I encourage you to type "y'all" into the handy-dandy search bar and see what happens.


Hi Amy! There is a sign language dictionary that will give you every single detailed sign. It is called Signed Exact English. I recommend it to all of my families that have children learning signs.
Also, I recommend that children at least try to say the first sound in the word they are trying to sign.
Ask your special instructor if she has sound flashcards for Noah.
Good luck!


Others have said but one more time, love and use http://www.aslpro.com/cgi-bin/aslpro/aslpro.cgi
also have a signed english dictionary. And I like the silly pizza song, it is the only part of signing time I still remember. "I like apples on my pizza..."
At school I play the idiot all the time, I model the sign or word or the whole phrase for kids for everything we do all day. Seems slow and annoying but all my little guys ask to have their shoes tied, milks open, for more cookies etc.


I took a class (and brought my daughter with me, although she didn't pay attention and just ran all over). It was really worth it, and it was specifically for signing for babies. Now I have a book and a laminated card that I used to quickly look things up. But, as one of the other posters here said, you can make up signs. Even deaf familes have "slang" signs. For example, blueberry is finger-spelled, and since that was a little beyond my baby, I just used the sign for "blue" to indicate it.

Signing was amazing for us, and I'm so glad I did it. I'm the wild-eyed parent advocating it too! :)


Another vote for the MSU website! My son's preschool's second language is ASL. They usually have at least one deaf teacher on staff, and that's where parents are sent to learn ASL on our very own when we need to communicate with her.

I've read your blog for a LONG time. Glad to finally be of (some) help... keep up the great work you're both doing with Noah!


something weird is going on with your margins--can't read amamah.com!sob


Speech therapist AND deaf educator here/hear (teehee)....

1) ALWAYS continue talking to Noah while signing...he will use signs as he learns how to articulate more accurately and once he can say the words, he will stop signing because he doesn't need it anymore

2)once he can say the words, don't MAKE HIM SIGN them...you want him to use the signs to help facilitate communication not replace speech with sign

3) DO NOT make up home signs if you can help it because IF Noah needs to continue to use signs to help with communication, you want them to be signs that are standardized (i.e. ASL), not something that nobody else knows about but you

4) Don't be so hard on yourself about how you interacted with Noah in the past...you are no different than any other parent...some children are just late talkers, some need some assistance in getting going...it's what you are doing now to make a difference that really matters

keep it up mommy...you are doing well!


As much as you beat yourself up, you are an AMAZING parent. If only ALL parents were so involved in their childrens' development, the world would be a less scary place.


We just had KayTar's 1 year re-eval with ECI today, so I find all of this fascinating. :) We've been through most of it already, but still fascinates me nonetheless.

If no one else has mentioned this, the Signing Times come on PBS every Sunday morning...we Tivo them and watch them at our (free) leisure. And if you don't want to overwhelm Noah with watching them too closely together, you could watch them and introduce the signs as he asks about them.


I remember back in my childhood of the 80s I had a Sesame Street book that was a sign language dictionary of kid friendly stuff- food, kid activities, toys, etc. It was "narrated" by the deaf lady on Sesame Street....Linda???? I remember it being a cool reference book. If Noah is into Sesame Street he might enjoy that. I bet you could find it at like a half price book store or on amazon or something.


OH! Just found it on Amazon. It's called Sesame Street Sign Language Fun. They have a used copy for a quarter!


I know everyone loves you and applauds everything that you do and that you are probably sick of all that praise, BUT. You have done a fantastic job with Noah and you make me ashamed of the "effort" we made with our own speech delayed son. (Basically: we got him into an early intervention preschool, but he was already 3+) We loved him and cared for him and engaged him but certainly didn't bust our asses like you and your husband have. He's ten now, his speech is great(in fact, he no longer sees the speech teacher), he's very witty, sweet and smart.He's come a million miles. It all worked out. BUT, I would feel a whole lot less guilty had I been as pro-active as you. Kudos, Amy! You really kicked ass!


aslpro.com is great for signs. The people on the videos are a bit creepy though.

My son is 15 months and also says 'mama' with his upper teeth over his lower lip. I kind of think it's cute. He has no problems with language so far, so I think it's just his thing. That and collapsing all over the damn house for no apparent reason.

cath kelly

I just wanted to tell you I made it all the way to the bottom of your post, and my heart goes out to you. You should pat yourself on the back for being a tremendously lovely, honest, and genuine mother. You make me smile.

Good luck with the signing and I know it will all turn out just fine.


Well, I was about to get quite excited because I used to translate for ASL, but all the webpages I would have suggested are already posted(MSU! MSU!). I would HIGHLY recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Course-American-Sign-Language/dp/0932666426 to help you with new signs and it is very clear though it looks straight out of another era where teased hair was a religious experience. Best of luck!


I used to translate for the Deaf and all the webpages I would have suggested are already up (MSU! MSU!). But, for new signs, I would completely recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Course-American-Sign-Language/dp/0932666426, although it looks like it comes from an era where teased hair was akin to a religious experience. Best of luck!


Dur. When it said it couldn't post, I should have checked if it actually did post.


"If you wholeheartedly subscribe to a particular approach -- be it co-sleeping, CIO, extended breastfeeding, spanking, whatever -- I can pretty much guaran-goddamn-tee that you will birth a child who will end up benefiting from the polar opposite of what you believe is the "right" way to do things."

That is the truest thing I have ever seen written about parenting. Mothers should be given large posters with this statement to hang over their beds the day they get a positive pregnancy test. Seriously.


If you can, check out Galludet University. They have an amazing store inside, which sells all kinds of books that teach signs. I have two deaf co-workers, and I took a sign language class through work and we went to Galludet, and checked out the store. You can buy sooo many things there, that'll help you. They have DVD's, books, flash cards... everything, for all ages. (Even sex books and sex games!)

kim at allconsuming

You know, our eldest has a profound speech disability. We live speech disability. And yet reading this was so good for me. Just a reminder to up his fish oil again (the kid chews unflavoured pure fish oil tablets like lollies) and to revisit the signing books.

Which, btw, is country-centric. So we've got "A picture dictionary of Australasian signs" and Key Signs of the Makaton vocabulary Auslan Edition. Auslan being the Australian version. Stupid isn't it. But there will be LOADS of books you can get that have little drawings of them (which - btw, if down the track you're still using them when he starts preschool (not wanting to freak you out) you can photocopy and make a book for the teachers to refer to. AND, once you start using signs for abstract ideas - like who, where, when, why you can make little mini posters of them for yourself around the house - rather than constantly having to refer back to the book which can become painful.
I've been staying pretty quiet on all this as it is your journey and our scenario is quite different,but thank you for re-energising us with our special (not so little anymore) little guy.


i didn't have time to read any of the comments, so i don't know if someone already mentioned this, but there is an online asl dictionary that might be of help to learn more signs. good luck! http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/browser.htm


I just wrote a few weeks ago about the power that Signing Time has in my house...http://anasmama.blogspot.com/2007/08/needing-her-signing-time-fix.html

It is truly manna from heaven. We now have discs 1-9(new baby due any day now and Mama needs a go to activity that does not involve my hands...or patience).

Anyway, I am sure you have received some good assvice on books to help supplement your signing vocabulary. I probably have a couple of books around here too. But honesty, I rely on my good pal Google and constantly put in searches for things like "ASL + Noodle" to find new signs that my toddler demands. I am really into the instant gratification thing....and you can do it on your iphone!!

Good luck


My son takes the Coromega's Orange flavor version (the son - he is a little hyper)and luckly he will just eat it out of the package. Sometimes I put it in vanilla yogurt - he loves that.


Amy, you are near a great resource, Galludet University. Surely their library has books on basic signs or maybe they have classes?

I was a nanny in Frederick for a year for a family with 2 deaf children. I didn't know sign language going in but the family paid for me to take classes the whole year I was there. There is a very large deaf community in Frederick and Western MD. Many of the kids go to GU or have ties there. Check out their website or the website of your local community college. That's where I took my signing lessons. My first class felt like remedial sign but it had to be since I didn't know the sign for anything.

I don't recommend making up signs because you live in an area with a large deaf community and it might be confusing to other kids Noah may come to know.


Two great websites for signs.



They even have the signs in video so you can see them done properly.


A friend from college who is a music therapist runs a program in NYC called Baby Fingers, and I know she has several books and DVDs for babies and children. You can check out her site at mybabyfingers.com. (I don't think she's got anything for your iphone, though!)


So, Amy? I live in Lansing, Michigan, and I graduated from Michigan State University in East Lansing? And I can tell you that the M.S.U. Child Development Lab is the HOTTEST preschool in town. There's a waiting list of like, a bazillion years, as in, register your child while they are still a zygote if you want a place.

So anything on their website, I can guaran-goddamn-TEE you has been tested and retested on a whole heck of a lot of kids whose parents were lucky enough to enroll them directly after birth. Good luck!

Oh, and you know what? Three kids, and I've read to all of them by having them sit on my lap where they can't see my mouth make the words, and why didn't I ever THINK to turn them around so they can see me? Speech delays or not, that just seems to make a lot of sense!


Just de-lurking to say how awesome I think you are doing with Noah, and how proud of Noah I am too. I'm cheering (although usually silently) for you!


I like the book "Joy of Signing" as a sort of dictionary and have a copy I can loan you if you want to check it out. That's how I picked up a lot of my signs before I took courses in college, and I used it to refresh my vocab, since I don't uses my signing skills much anymore.


Awesome site



Google -- I just google the word that I want to teach L next and move on.

I "think" signing times has a dictionary DVD to it too, no?


"If you wholeheartedly subscribe to a particular approach -- be it co-sleeping, CIO, extended breastfeeding, spanking, whatever -- I can pretty much guaran-goddamn-tee that you will birth a child who will end up benefiting from the polar opposite of what you believe is the "right" way to do things."

Amen! Very wise words! I guess [good] parents never stop adjusting their parenting style in order to fit the needs of their child. I relearned that lesson again yesterday, and my kid's eleven!

The lady from the Signing Time video (Rachel?) makes personal appearances, and apparently her appearance on stage elicits screams of near rock-star-esque hysteria from the wee ones in the audience.


Great job Noah! I love the bubble popping - have to try that with my daughter.


I didn't have time to read all the comments, but about the gravel: I STILL have some small gravel in my right knee after a bike spill at about 10 years old (20 years ago).

My mom was out for the evening and my dad didn't really clean it properly, and the skin grew over the little bits just like your describe, and here I am today. With absolutely no overall effect on my health or going through metal detectors at airports. It did hurt when I knelt down in dance classes as a teenager, but that's not an issue with your palm...


I have a 19 month old who is pretty much nonverbal...we believe by her choice. She was breastfedd (got that good DHA). She refused sippy cups and would only drink from a straw. I talk and read to her (go figure!). We have also been doing sign and speech theraphy. Our local Catholic school (I don't hold it against them) offers sign language as a foreign language elective. All good Catholic students have to do volunteer work to graduate. So I took advantage of that and got myself 2 wonderful sign language tutors for FREE! YAHOOOO


I read this whole post and I don't even have a KID. Yay for Noah, I am so thrilled that he is thriving!

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