How My Baby Signs® Journey Began

“When I started the Baby Signs® Program, I was in a dysfunctional marriage with three children under the age of 3 and a full-time in-home childcare provider.  My son was 2 years and 7 months, and my twin daughters were 11 months. My son was going through his “terrible two’s” with some significant tantrums. I was overwhelmed with no self-esteem, no confidence, and no support system. I was desperate for anything to help. Parenting was a job I couldn’t fail. I couldn’t fail my childcare children.

I saw the Baby Signs® program on TV. I ordered the parent kit. I thought I’ve blown money on worse things, and it shouldn’t hurt anything so was worth a try. My expectations were VERY low as it seemed too good to be true. If the program did work, I doubted my ability to teach sign language when I had never signed before.

When the parent kit came, I did not start right away. It took a week or so for me to build up to it. I thought about the things we do every day. I started with signing eat, drink, bath, etc. Help and sorry were also among the first signs, I introduced.

When I started learning and teaching sign language, I realized how busy I was. Introducing sign language made me stop, make eye contact, and then say and sign. I didn’t realize how much I was talking at my children instead of talking to them. By taking that time to talk to them while signing, I actually saved time and energy as it was more effective.  That was one of my many light bulb moments.

I figured my two-year-old son would be my interpreter. He picked up on the signs immediately. He started effectively communicating his needs through sign language decreasing tantrums by over 50% in the first few days. When he saw how I understood the signs, he looked for other ways to communicate his needs if he did not know the sign. No tantrums!! It was AMAZING!! He then started “teaching” his sisters and our childcare children. When he communicated with other children, they responded in a different way than they did to me. I will never forget the first time I saw him walk up to a childcare child (approximately a year younger than him) and start signing to her. She was not only receptive to him, but she also started signing back. I stood there just watching them. I could have watched that all day.

One of my daughters picked up on signing within a few days. I remember her calling for me, I turned and looked at her. She signed to me, and I understood her. I do not remember what she signed, but I will never forget her light bulb moment when it just clicked. She was unstoppable after that. Watching her and her brother communicate and understand each other was another AMAZING moment. She also started communicating with our childcare children.

My other daughter seemed to understand the signs but hadn’t started signing back. I was rocking with her one day when she spontaneously signed “dad”. I asked her if she wanted to talk to her dad. She just looked at me and it was clear that was her light bulb moment. We called her dad and she got to hear his voice. After that, she was signing all the time. Seeing her and her siblings communicate effectively with each other through sign language was awe-inspiring. She also started communicating with our childcare children.

I had enjoyed doing in-home childcare before but adding sign language put it on a completely different level! I was learning so much from just observing them! I tried numerous times over the years to get pictures or video of what I was seeing. Every time they saw the camera, they stopped. I quit trying to get pictures or video as I didn’t ever want them to stop.

Shortly after we started signing, my husband moved out. Shortly after that, I noticed one of my daughters started having “spells”. The first one that definitively stuck out was when she was 12 months old. She was sitting at the table eating a cherry tomato. Cherry tomatoes were like candy to her. She had just put one in her mouth when her bottom jaw fell open and the tomato dropped out. Her reaction after that was what concerned me. She started crying and it was obvious she was scared. As her “spells” progressed, I needed more information as her pediatrician was not getting what I was saying. I am medically challenged but knew something wasn’t right. I knew I needed more information.

I started working with her through sign language. I trusted her and needed her to give me as much information as she could. She started signing “help” during her “spells”. That let me know when I needed to start documenting what she was doing and how she was acting. Her “spells” resembled tantrums at times. I knew they weren’t tantrums as she was telling me differently.

I learned quickly how easy it was for medical professionals to dismiss her signing “help” during her “spells”. They did not understand the power of a hearing child signing. At 19 months, she was finally seen by a pediatric neurologist. He was very skeptical at first but listened. He was very thorough questioning me for 45 minutes about what she was doing. Because she was able to sign when she was having “spells”, I had the answers I needed. My answers were consistent with her tests. She was diagnosed with Childhood Epilepsy having Complex Partial seizures. Her pediatric neurologist said that it is very rare that a child having Complex Partial seizures is seen at 19 months. Typically, they are in kindergarten or older with developmental and/or learning delays.

She was put on medication to control her seizures. She had regressed to the point where she had would spend most of her day in her exersaucer crying or just there. She stopped running, playing, walking unless it was necessary, etc. She rarely smiled or laughed.

As time went on before she was diagnosed, I spent a lot of time with her documenting and making sure she was okay. Signing gave me the tools to explain to my children and our childcare children what was going on. When they could see she was having issues, they played together and left us alone unless it was something that could not wait. Their level of understanding was far more than I ever expected.

There was one night that my daughter had a “spell” and appeared to stop breathing more than once. I was emotionally drained; I knew I wouldn’t be able to do CPR if needed. I believe that God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle. I prayed a lot before, but this time it was different. I didn’t want her to suffer anymore and if it was her time to go, I prayed to take her peacefully and show us how to get through. It was at that moment that I completely trusted God’s plan. God did not take her home that night and I am grateful for every moment since.

After her seizures were under control, she needed to relearn a lot of things. I sat down with my son and other daughter and explained to them that we needed to help her relearn. While I worked with her, she understood on a different level when her brother and sister worked with her. When her brother went to preschool, her sister would work with her, and encourage her. She didn’t get discouraged or frustrated, just kept encouraging her and working with her. The age and the level of understanding that was shown completely blew my mind! She quickly started to relearn and was active again. Her smile and laugh came back.

Five months after being put on medication, I was tucking her in bed. She looked different like something wasn’t right. She signed “help” and pointed to her throat. I asked her if it was hard to swallow. She nodded. Her throat was swelling shut. She had developed an allergic reaction to her medication. Because she was able to communicate what was happening, I was able to give her something to quickly reverse the allergic reaction. We avoided an ER visit among other things. She has been medication-free and seizure-free since.

She relearned everything and continued to progress. After 4-year-old preschool, there was a slight question by her teachers if she should go to Kindergarten Prep instead of kindergarten. I did not have any concerns as I saw how far she had come. I was confident that all of us working together, would be to get her where she needed to be to start kindergarten. She is now a junior in high school. To date, she has never had developmental or learning delays. She goes out for whatever sport she chooses.

My son is a freshman in college and my daughters are now juniors in high school and have received academic honors throughout their middle school and high school years. They work well with a variety of people and can communicate effectively. They are great teachers. The bond they have with each other is by far one of the best benefits! I could go on and on.

When I started using the Baby Signs® Program, I had no idea what it would do for me. My confidence and self-esteem kept building. The bond with my son and daughters continued to get stronger. I realized I didn’t have to have all the answers. They knew I was trying so they kept trying. I didn’t have to be perfect. My approach to parenting changed. When I didn’t know, I asked them for help. If they didn’t like what I was doing, we talked about it. I explained my side and they explained theirs. I asked them for a better solution. They didn’t always have one, but the power struggle was avoided. We worked together.

As a single parent, my children were with me almost all the time. Effective communication through sign language gave us the tools we needed to be able to go to the grocery store, Kmart, and occasionally to a restaurant. I needed everyone to be on the same page. I was typically pushing a cart with children and pulling a cart with our merchandise. We had very few incidences. We were able to attend different classes that were offered in our area and travel to see our relatives who lived hours away. We had options. Being able to go out with my children helped me cope with day-to-day life, but also start to heal with everything that had happened.

Things haven’t been perfect, but we’ve had the tools we needed to work through whatever came up. Our world has been shaken numerous times, but the foundation that was created is still there. We are there for each other.

The support I received from other instructors when my daughter was having issues still brings tears to my eyes. They understood the power of a hearing child signing and gave me much-needed encouragement. I can never repay them for that, but I can pay it forward.

Today, I have confidence, self-esteem and am grateful for a blessed life. Through our greatest struggles came our greatest blessings. I don’t even want to think how different our lives could have been if I hadn’t seen the Baby Signs® ad or ordered the Parent Kit. I will never underestimate the power of effective communication, spoken or signed.”

~Heather Casey
Baby Signs® Independent Certified Instructor  

Download a free poster with the ASL sign for HELP. 

Watch this video and learn the ASL sign for HELP: