To Sign Or Not To Sign

To Sign Or Not To Sign

We have been discouraged from learning sign language. From the time we decided that Bette would be a hearing child, via cochlear implants, we were told not to learn sign language. At least, not yet.

The reason being that because Bette spent the entire first year of her life in silence, she is instinctively a visual learner. It is her default mode. But now that she has cochlear implants and can hear everything that I can hear, she needs to be rewired, so that hearing is her default mode.

The fear is that if she does not begin to learn through sound primarily, and sight secondarily, she will not learn to speak. So we have been discouraged from learning to sign.

And I get it. I get why our team of hearing professionals wants us to wait. But I cannot wait any longer. Not one more day.

Because I need to be able to communicate with Bette. Yes, she has cochlear implants and can hear, but there are quite a few hours of the day when she does not wear them. She can’t sleep or bathe in them. She always takes them off the minute we get in the car.  And sometimes, she just gets tired of wearing them. So, off they go.

But she also isn’t speaking much. She has a few partial words that she uses, but she does not have any language. And no one has any idea when that will come. She may be fully up to speed by the time she is three years old. Or she may not be equal to her peers in language until she is five years old.

We hope for the best. We hope she learns to talk soon, but we cannot hurry things along. There is nothing we can do to make the process go any faster, other than what we are already doing, which is regular speech therapy and non-stop narrating at home.

So until that day comes, I need a way to “talk” with Bette, when she is in the bathtub, at the pool, or on the beach. I need to be able to warn her of danger. I need to be able to tell her it is time for lunch or to go do something else. I need to be able to tell her to come here and I need to be able to tell her to stop.

Mostly, I need to be able to keep her safe, and I need sign language to do that.


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  1. susie eberhard says:

    Taylor, Thanks for sharing your decision process….wow. It is a hard one but not really because you do know what is best!! I will pray for peace and assurance to move forward in any direction that seems right…..surely the
    professionals would agree with your thoughts… any rate, you know Bette and what is needed each day to
    help her…We love y’all!!!! Susie

  2. Trust your gut! Kellan went through a 3 week phase when he was 20 months old where he was beyond frustrated. Unhappy. It drove me nuts. At that time the decision was a little easier for us because we were not sure we were going to implant him or not. We all started to learn to sign. It changed our world…it became more peaceful. It actually helped us get to a point where we moved forward with the implant. We still do both and he is doing just fine. In fact, signing has given us validation that he is hearing and understands what we are saying. For example, if I ask him if he wants a banana…he walks over to where I keep them and signs banana. So I know he heard and understood my command. Once he did that a few times, now after he signs I do my best to make him say it. Yesterday for the first time he said “nana”. You can do both and there is such beauty in it.

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