Sign Language and Wordy Gestures


We have had a number of great questions lately from some of our parents whose children have Down syndrome.  I will be posting them from time to time so that any families who have the same questions in mind will be able to see my responses. I will not use the actual names in order to respect family privacy.


We are teaching Julie, 3 (and her sister, Jamie, 4) sign language. Julie, who has Down syndrome, is not really speaking yet. Would the gestures that go with the Wordy jingles be too confusing for them, especially Julie?


There shouldn’t be a problem.  Children are frequently exposed to song gestures because they add interest and fun to the songs.   Have Julie and Jamie listened to Wheels on the Bus,  Itsy Bitsy Spider, or other children’s favorites that have accompanying gestures?   If so, have they associated particular gestures with each of those songs.  Many instructional songs have gestures that go with them.   For example, Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Getting back to our phonogram clues, let’s take the ‘f’ phonogram jingle, which references a fan, as an example.  I looked up the American Sign Language sign for “fan,” and it indicates that the individual puts his/her index finger above his/her head and makes a small rotating motion to simulate (the NOUN) fan.  The “sign” we use to illustrate “fan my hot face” is one that simulates the VERB “fan.”   The hand goes up and down in front of the face creating a breeze.)

Now, that said, let me add that the gestures are suggested gestures.  They have been well thought out.  They match the messages in the jingles.  But they are not mandatory.  If using a ”sign language” gesture is better, then, by all means go for it.  In fact, any alternative gesture that makes sense and helps the girls associate the jingle (hence the sound with the letter) is perfect.




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