Category Archives: Lora’s Blog

Home Signs? Gestures? ASL?

aslIt’s essential to understand that American Sign Language (ASL) is a language completely separate and distinct from English. It contains all the fundamental features of language—it has its own semantics and syntax, specific grammatical rules. The adjective typically comes before the noun, which is different than English and more like Spanish or French. English speakers ask a question by raising the pitch of their voice; ASL users ask a question by raising their eyebrows and widening their eyes.

Like spoken languages, sign languages have regional differences and variations, but those tend to be understood and adopted by each local Deaf community. Home signs are different, and usually remain within the home. Since not every family learning to sign has a Deaf family member, and those that do don’t always have access to a local Deaf community or mentor, they may create home signs. In addition, there’s not a word for word translation from English to ASL – some words are also finger-spelled which can be tricky for very young children to produce at first. Yogurt, for example, is a word that has a couple of sign variations typically used by kids but the word tends to be finger-spelled in adult conversation.

So home signs can be useful – their consistent use and their use within the rules of ASL is what helps them to become purposeful language-based signs as opposed to simple gestures. Many young children create their own spoken words for things around them, and the same can happen in sign language.

Gestures are distinct from manual signs in that they do not belong to a complete language system, rather they enhance the use of spoken language. For example, pointing to indicate interest in an object is a widely used gesture that is understood by many cultures. Manual signs, however, are gestures that have become a lexical element in a given language. When communicating in ASL, signs take the place spoken words.

There is some solid research demonstrating the benefits of gestural or manual communication in early language acquisition and development, and other important research indicating that the incorporation of ASL in early childhood is what benefits language development and opens the doors to bilingualism. At Baby Fingers we work with Deaf and hearing families, offering ASL through songs and play. We aim to foster family bonding and communication while jumpstarting language acquisition and  bilingualism, and providing exposure to Deaf culture. We believe that accessible language and family support are essential to all children, regardless of hearing status, needs or abilities.

Memories of a Coffee Mug

In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is a special memory—and there are so many as a parent! I also cherish moments from long ago. I love some of the most basic but reliable holiday traditions from my childhood and continue them as a parent myself, like wrapping eight small to… Continue Reading

Collaboration – Children, Language, and the Arts

  We are so very excited to collaborate with TAPA, the Theresa Academy of Performing Arts in Lido Beach LI. TAPA is part of the Theresa Foundation, which was developed to provide supportive, creative programs to children with special needs and their families in Long Island. This winter we’re offering a free demo followed by weekly… Continue Reading

Holiday Traditions

How do you celebrate the holidays with your family?  Do you bring in traditions from your own childhood, or have you started new ones since becoming a parent?  Perhaps a combination of the two? I remember that as a kid, we often left cookies for Santa on the front hall seat.  We didn’t have a chimney…and we’re… Continue Reading

Dancing with Words

“Become an early partner with your child as together you dance with the words of ASL. Both your fingers and hands and your child’s fingers and hands can create meaning in the air as you silently exchange messages in sign language. For your child this dance will activate formative links in the developing brain; teach… Continue Reading


As usual at this time of year, I begin to think about all the things I feel thankful for – of course family always comes to mind first. And I’m especially grateful that my children had the opportunity to meet their great grandmother. My mom has a sign outside her kitchen door that says “Grandchildren… Continue Reading

Worst Mom in the World?!

    One morning when my older son was in 3rd grade and getting ready to leave for school, fashion conscious as he was, he had a difficult time deciding which jacket to wear. After changing his mind and his jacket several times, he finally was ready to go…until we got to the elevator. At that… Continue Reading

Motherhood as a Muggle

That’s right, I have NO magic wand, no special powers. I’m your run of the mill muggle. Unless you consider getting through an emergency C-section at 41 weeks having special powers. After my V-BAC exactly two years and two weeks later, my OB nurse called me a super-mom and had all the other nurses come… Continue Reading


August 24th, 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida. The Bahamas and Louisiana were also hit very hard. It was a category 5 storm. Not as much rain as expected but stronger winds than predicted. The Homestead area of Miami-Dade County was devastated. I was living in south Florida at the time, completing my clinical training internship at… Continue Reading

Humor in Parenting – how would you react?

  How would you react if you heard your preschooler saying “Damn it!” ??? So many moments in parenting make us think about our own habits, realize what sponges our children truly are, and remind us to have a little sense of humor now and then. And our kids can be so clever, they will… Continue Reading