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February 1, 2004

Mother creates sign language video for children

From: News 8 Austin, TX - Feb 1, 2004

By: Amy Bowlin

Hearing a baby's first word is an exciting moment for parents, but it can take children with Down Syndrome years before they learn to talk.

When Nora Salinas' daughter Lili was born with Down Syndrome, Nora thought she would have to put her production company on hold and focus on Lili's needs.

But when Lili's speech therapist recommended Nora begin using sign language to spark her communication skills, Nora had an idea.

"Down's children tend to be a little bit verbally delayed, so very early on our speech therapist recommended that we start signing with her," Nora said.

She and business partner Dawn Alexander created a sign language video for babies and toddlers called "Say it with a Sign."

"I remember the first sign she did. We were on a swing and she signed 'More.' She wanted me to push her some more. And it was a real moment," Nora said.

Although it took Lili a couple years to learn to speak, she picked up sign language in a matter of months. Now three, she loves to sign.

Parents can start teaching signs to children as young as six months old. Simple signs like "eat" and "up" can help children communicate what they want.

"When babies are very young and they have a wet diaper, they start crying and you're not sure what it is. They can tell you if it's a diaper, or if they want something to drink. It certainly relieves a great deal of stress for the parent and the child," Nora said.

Therapists say using sign language can help any child develop communication and social skills.

"How to coordinate all these muscles, and the lungs for respiration, vocal chords and all the parts of the mouth are involved in saying a word. Whereas, a young child can imitate a gesture so easily," speech pathologist Tracy Sabel said.

"I really feel signing with her was the bridge for her being able to communicate," Nora said.

On Salina's Web site, she said that studies show by saying the word at the same time as the sign, children will "understand that the two are interchangeable and will opt for the spoken word once their verbal skills develop."

Children often take just a few months to learn signs and begin using them in everyday activities.

Copyright ©2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin