COMMUNICATION: Baby, let's talk some sign language together

MOST babies cannot talk until they are 16 months old – but a new course aims to help mums communicate with their demanding youngsters.

MOST babies cannot talk until they are 16 months old – but a new course aims to help mums communicate with their demanding youngsters.When Jackie Fewtrell had her baby daughter, Suzanne, in June 2004, she was frustrated that she couldn't tell what was going on behind the child's alert, bright blue eyes.

She heard about a new sign-language course for babies which had been a big hit in the USA, and decided to sign her youngster up.

And Jackie said she was astonished by little Suzanne's response to it.

Within a month, her bonnie baby was asking for her milk, demanding more food and letting mummy know exactly when she was tired.

Jackie (29), who lives in Lavington Grange, Parnwell, Peterborough, is now planning to pass her parenting secret on to other city mums.

She said: "When children can't speak, they are still trying to say things. So when they can sign to you, the gestures open up a whole new world of communication. It just means life together is so much more pleasant and easy."

Jackie uses the Sign With Me method which develops an individual programme based on someone's levels of experience using sign language.

Suzanne, who is now 19 months old, mastered her first gesture – "I'm done" – at eight months old.

She now regularly signs 80 different expressions to her mother.

Suzanne, an only child, has also said her first words and now uses speech alongside sign language to communicate with her mum.

Jackie, who is currently a housewife and lives with husband, Andy, said: "It puts the children in control. When they are crying, I know why.

I can ask them why, and hopefully solve it.

"I found it so helpful, so it would be an absolute shame if other mothers had to lose out."

The First Signs class, to be held at the Open Door Baptist Church, in Harris Street, Millfield, Peterborough, will teach mothers and babies the fundamentals of sign language.

They will be taught basic words and phrases by picture association, meaning the child will be shown a picture, then the appropriate hand gesture to go with it.

The child should be picking up its first sign words at around 10 months, and gradually developing its vocabulary from then on.

Studies have shown building up sign language vocabulary early helps bolster youngsters' development.

The first class is due to take place on Friday this week, between 10am and 11.30am.

> For more information about First Signs, call Jackie Fewtrell on 01733 562150.

Some sample words

Some of the words babies can learn include:

"Aeroplane" – sticking the thumb and little finger out to make the wings of an aeroplane.

"Milk" – squeezing your fingers together in your palm to make it look like you are milking a cow.

"Book"– putting palms together and then opening them.

"Bird" – using arms as wings, in a flapping movement.

"Bathtime" – rubbing the chest to symbolise washing.