Signing Time

May 17, 2011

As we have been on the subject of signing with children, I thought I’d mention the Signing Time video series.   Signing Time was created by Rachel Coleman after she discovered that her daughter Leah was deaf at about 1 year of age.  A musician, Coleman collaborated with her sister to create videos that would give others the ability to communicate with her daughter.  The videos became extremely popular and the television series was born. Coleman then had a second daughter who was born with spina bifida and cerebral palsy.  Despite fears that she would never learn to communicate, the exposure to the sign language that her parents and older sister were using allowed her to learn to sign and speak as well.

The back story alone was enough to get me to try these videos. I found that the company even offers a Down syndrome bundle with a link to a downloadable guide about using signs with children who have DS.  Our daughter was 2 when we started watching the videos with her, and I have found that the bundle includes a lot of the words we are trying to teach her.  It works really well to watch episodes with other siblings as well since they pick up the signs and begin using them too.

I find our daughter’s attention span isn’t long enough to watch an entire video, so we can only watch parts at a time, but she has definitely learned words from it — and not just the signs but the spoken words as well.  We have Signing Time to thank for our daughter shaking her head and saying “No! No! No!”.  How empowering!

Coleman herself introduces the signs, and her daughter Leah and nephew Alex, as well as other children, demonstrate the use of the signs in scenes that are set to music.  It can be difficult to tell from illustrations in a book how to make the signs, so the videos are a great tool to see how signs are really used.  Videos can be expensive, so you might want to check your library or see if the library will order them for their collection. 

I was particularly touched by Rachel Coleman’s blog (  She is an extraordinary mother who has created something that has undoubtedly helped many children and families communicate.

A number of Signing Time videos can be found online on Signing Time’s own You Tube channel .

Suggested for: any parent who would like to introduce signing to their children; public libraries; resource libraries catering to young families

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