Sara Ghioto has seen a number of benefits from teaching her children sign language, even though neither has a hearing impairment.
Born and raised in Livonia, Ghioto now lives in Farmington Hills and has opened a business, Signing Grace, LLC, through which she teaches parents with babies and toddlers how to communicate even before they can speak. She said the technique has brought her even closer with her daughters, who are almost 3 and 15 months old.
"Most of it is parent learning," Ghioto said.
She got interested in sign language after taking two classes in college, "because I hated Spanish and am a very kinesthetic learner." After using those textbooks to try teaching her eldest daughter to sign, her family gave her a "Signing Time" DVD.
"It was a life-saver," Ghioto said. Now, her youngest daughter "is able to tell me when she's hungry, thirsty, sleep or wants her pacifier ... The kids are basically learning vocabulary."
Ghioto teaches 8-week classes that are one hour long. Every child learns differently, she said. Some pick it up with just a few signs. And parents vary as to how long they continue with sign language. "Some want to continue, others as soon as their kids start talking give it up," she said.
Instruction starts with the basics, signs for "milk", "bed", "blanket", "nap". Being able to communicate those simple needs can help reduce tantrums, Ghioto said. The program can be especially beneficial for children with disabilities, and being able to finger spell helps with early literacy, she added.
Materials included with the classes give parents what they need to master the signs, and they can purchase additional materials to support their learning. But mostly, Ghioto said, "It takes practice and a willingness to learn."