“When my son Beren (brave, strong bear) was about seven weeks old (January 2008) we discovered he had a severe (type-4) tongue-tie, a condition where the tongue is bonded to the floor of the mouth, so he was unable to lift or extend his tongue. Feeding had been becoming more and more problemmatic for him. Now I discovered why!
It seemed like the most difficult case of tongue-tie ever! We were privileged, though, to have a fantastic expert team helping Beren - surgeons and feeding specialists from the UK, USA and Australia were involved. It took six separate procedures (two under general anaesthetic), including a journey to New York at five months of age, to free Beren's tongue sufficiently.
His first year was difficult as drinking and eating were hard work for him. Added to this, as he reached the age where most babies would start to babble, he began to get very frustrated at his inability to move his tongue. He would often cry and make angry noises in an attempt to express himself.
Because of my signing experience I started to show him signs to help him to see that we understood his needs and wanted to communicate. Signing quickly gave him some relief as he learned to express himself. Beren could now tell us the things he wanted, or could manage, to eat; he could also tell us about other things he liked, such as animals and watering-cans!
Slowly his personality began to emerge through signs and attempts at speech, and he was so much happier as, at last, he was being understood! Because he developed such a large vocabulary – over 200 signs - this really helped him after his last operation, as his tongue was now much less restricted, he could begin to convert these signs to speech. When the words did not come out clearly he could use signs to help us understand and, little by little, correct him by repeating the proper pronounciaton.
Now at age two, with all the surgery behind him, his speech has improved considerably and he continues to amaze us with his complex understanding of things. People often comment about his fantastic memory; he tells us, in amazing detail, about things that happened a year ago. Many studies have shown how signing can have a positive effect on a child’s brain, stimulating the language, memory and visual parts simultaneously; I didn’t realise this at the time but it certainly had a positive effect on Beren!
Beren is now learning his alphabet through sign and can also communicate with our Deaf friends, so we are enjoying some of the long term benefits associated with baby signing.
Since our experience I have had a great deal of enjoyment helping more mums (and dads!) to communicate with their babies though sign. I have seen that signing can give parents a unique opportunity to understand their child’s personality and thoughts and allow children to express their wants and needs clearly at an early age.”
DD. February 2010