by Monica Beyer
Meet Becka Marsch. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children — Nick (8), Michele (5) and Wyatt (16 months). She is originally from New York and has been signing since her oldest child was 2 years old. She is the owner of Learn and Grow Together and offers classes in a large variety of subjects (including sign language) in the North Carolina area. She has a lot of experience signing with her own children and was eager to share her experiences with other parents!
SB: Do you have any background in ASL or other signed languages (such as any sign language specific education or degree)?
Becka: I do not have ASL training per say. I have taken classes and learned as I went. I do want to become fluent within the next few years! My degree is in Early Childhood Education and Development.
SB: How would you describe your child(ren)’s typical day? What are some of his/her favorite things to do?
Becka: Right now it is summer, so the kids do not have a typical schedule, since we are outside A LOT during the summer time. My oldest is going into the 4th grade, and taking gifted classes. My middle will be going to kindergarten. For the youngest, I start with breakfast, and while he is eating, I read to him, play some music and sign what he is doing. Then we read books, and sign to some of them. We read for about an hour or so, depending on his level of interest. We then do some puzzles, sing rhymes, and listen to music, complete with instruments. We have a lot of outside time, and go to plenty of playdates with friends. By the time we are done, it is already time for daddy to come home!
SB: How did you first learn about using sign language with hearing babies?
Becka: I used some sporadic signs with my day care kids, and with my own kids when they were younger. I saw that it lessened their frustration when they could tell me what they wanted, before they could tell me. Then, right before I got pregnant with the baby, the research was so prominent, that I decided to become an instructor myself, so I could help families communicate!
SB: What prompted you to try signing with your own child(ren)?
Becka: The research and seeing how it worked with other families.
SB: What signs did you start with, and why?
Becka: I started with some firsts, such as more, eat, please, mama, and dada. I did not limit my signs. My theory on this is that you do not limit your spoken words, why limit your signs?
SB: How long did it take before your child(ren) started signing to you?
Becka: I started late with my oldest 2, so they were ell over 1 year. But because I started, literally, from birth with my 16 month old (seen here signing “change”), he started signing back at 2 months old, and started singing in a 2 word sentence at 6 months.
SB: Think back to when your children signed to you for the first time — how did you feel?
Becka: With all of them, I felt elated! But because Wyatt started so soon, I was so proud, and started to take pictures and videos. I have a video on YouTube of him at 6 months, signing More Milk.
SB: What is your child(ren)’s favorite sign?
Becka: My oldest likes to sign whatever. My daughter seems to like anything that is an animal sign. My youngest likes fish, light, and fan.
SB: Can you think of a specific situation where signing helped prevent frustration or a tantrum?
Becka: So far, I have not had this happen, though I am sure I will experience it soon enough!
SB: Did you have any stumbling blocks along the way, and if so, what did you do to overcome it/them?
Becka: I seem to have a pretty easy time teaching my kids! Of course, my son is a toddler now, so he does not sit long for me to teach him!!!
SB: What did your family members think of your signing activities? Did you have any negative feedback? If so, what did you say or do?
Becka: So far I have not had any negative feedback. I have had people ask me if that would hinder language development, and I promptly told them that is would in fact INCREASE language, as signing activates multiple areas of the brain used for communication.
SB: Tell me about Wee Hands and being a baby sign language instructor. What is your favorite thing about it? If someone is interested in starting their own signing instruction business, where would you tell them to look first?
Becka: Wee Hands was founded in 2001 by Sara Bingham. It is actually based in Canada, but there are instuctors throughout the US. I love signing because I can teach families to communcate early, and this creates a stronger bond between parent and child. If someone as interested, I would suggest going to Wee Hands or to Sign 2 Me. These 2 companies make sure you have an ASL background and you go through extensive training.
SB: Do you have any unique or funny signing stories?
Becka: One thing that stands out, is my youngest, at 13 months, coming into the kitchen, singing change, then getting me a diaper. It was funny, and also felt great that he was totally getting it! Another funny, is that my daughter will sign to my oldest, and since he does not really know many signs anymore, he gets so mad…but it is still funny!
SB: Anything else you can think of?
About the Author: Monica Beyer, creator of the highly trafficked website signingbaby.com, gained firsthand knowledge of the benefits of using baby sign language from teaching her own three children. Author of Baby Talk (Tarcher, 2006) and Teach Your Baby to Sign (Fair Winds Press, 2007), she lives in Missouri with her husband and children.