I started using two key signs with Patrick from the age of around two. Those key signs were “more” and “finished”. I don’t think he took much notice of me doing it but you just never know so I persevered.
To get your non-verbal child to ask for something they obviously have to want it, badly. For Patrick with no clear obsessions or interests this was hard. If you withheld anything for too long he lost interest and wandered off or became frustrated and would have a melt down.
By chance last year I found out Patrick enjoyed yoghurt. Scrap that, he LOVED yoghurt. So began a nightly routine. Where I would sit on the kitchen floor across from him, the only place I could be on his level and use my hand to guide his hand to sign more. We would do this before every tiny spoonful. Sometimes a small tub of yoghurt would take 20minutes to finish. Which is a lot of time to patrick.
I started this around June last year. We finally got to a point where I knew he could sign it on his own but he was still needing that physical prompt to do so. Frustrating!
So I learnt to be patient and wait for a response a longer time. If he wanted it enough he knew what to do.
One morning he wanted yoghurt before school and out of nowhere while I happened to be filming, to show his teachers how I was guiding him to sign, he did it all by himself. Signed ‘more’.
This was like hearing a first word for us. His first proper way of communicating that others can understand. I was worried he would think that ‘more’ was only for yoghurt but I shouldn’t have been. He uses it now to ask for a range of things, including this morning at school signing ‘more’ and pushing me away from him. In other words ‘more leaving mum’.
In the time this took me to teach, a year, there were tears and frustration from both of us. There were times I felt like it wasn’t working and to just give up. I’m so glad I didn’t now and I’m so glad for yoghurt!