What's the sign for Toilet Paper???

Toilet: Palm-out T shakes

Paper: Palm-down right heel (of hand) brushes across palm-up left hand slightly to the left; repeat.

Imagine walking into a house and finding squares of paper stuck to almost everything, many of them only a few feet off the floor. New game? Updated décor? Inventory? Nothing so mundane, it was just my first attempt at teaching my 13-month-old daughter to communicate.

We were all going to learn sign language, in our case Signing Exact English (SEE). But there were so few resources available; no story books, no games, no characters, nothing to engage a toddler except a Signing Exact English Dictionary – 431 pages of densely-packed signs in alphabetical order. Overwhelmed, we began planning our approach.

Where to begin? We started with scissors and tape. One copy of the dictionary wouldn’t be enough for what I had planned. I bought two. The first copy we kept with us at all times. The other I chopped to bits, cutting out every picture that related to our lives. Pictures of people, colors, food, furniture, appliances and clothing, Sign for door and door knobI taped, velcro’d and glued those pictures to every item we needed to identify. There were pictures on (and in) the refrigerator, drawers, closets, bathrooms, bedrooms, windows and doors. I would have stuck pictures on our pets if they had sat still.

It didn’t matter what the house looked like, the most important thing was that we were COMMUNICATING with our daughter. We were catching up on the 13 months that we’d missed. Our approach worked well for our family -- Alex, her 7-year-old sister Heather, the baby-sitter, friends and teachers. We were all learning together.

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