WellesleyWeston Magazine

FALL 2018

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: https://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/1011917

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Page 167 of 207

Kirsten Spencer, who also teaches baby sign, has experienced in- creased literacy skills in her own children. Before teaching baby sign, Spencer earned her degree in American Sign Language Interpreting. She developed an early interest in signing when a deaf child enrolled in her mother's day care. "My mother encouraged us all to sign. I later went on to major in it at school and would act as an interpreter for hearing disabled people at doctor's appointments or in college courses. I never thought about teaching it to infants, until I had my own children. The ability of an infant to sign to you is amazing and, honestly, somewhat emotional. You don't necessarily realize that they are absorbing everything to the degree that they are and that they have preferences even at that stage." "My oldest son, Eli, first signed back to me when he was 10 months old," Spencer continues. "His first sign was 'more.' He was putting three words together at 14 months. I was in shock when I saw him sign 'more hot water' in the tub to me one night. When he started talking, he just exploded." His language skills were so impressive that a linguistic student from the University of Oregon, where they were living at the time, asked to come and observe Eli. At 18 months, Eli could communicate concepts such as "truck too heavy" via sign language. He was potty trained by 16 months because he could sign when he had to go. On a more poetic note, Eli would refer to his favorite field, which was covered with dandelions, with the signs 'bubble flower,' his own conno- tation for the word dandelion. "I truly believe in teaching infants to sign — both for the emotional attachment and the early communication," Spencer says. "One night my son was crying and crying; I couldn't figure out how to settle him. He kept trying to sign something to me. When I walked into the kitchen, rocking him, he pointed at the cabinet where I kept the medicine, and I realized he was trying to sign medicine. We took him to the doctor, and he had a bad ear infection." White has a similar story about an infant who was enrolled in one of her classes. "Baby Violet missed week four of class. When her mother returned with Violet for week five, she was effusive. Apparently Violet was crying and unsettled the evening before the last class and the parents could not figure out what to do. She finally signed pain next to her ears. The parents took her to the doctor, and she had a double ear infection." Allison Genovese is the executive vice president of early childhood programs at RCS Behavioral and Educational Consulting, which is based in Natick and Waltham. She provides therapy to children with autism and their families. She also oversees MiniMiracles Early Education and Childcare Center in Natick, which provides public childcare for all types of children. "We apply baby sign to children starting at four to eight months," Genovese says. "The key is that the infant can show focused attention for five to ten seconds. We start by modeling the signs for eat, milk, sleep, 166 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | f a l l 2 0 1 8 family matters "early communication"

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