Parents in Astoria will now be able to figure out what their babies want before they even learn how to speak.
Rebecca Raymond is the instructor behind My Smart Hands NYC, the New York City franchise of a company started by Laura Berg in Canada, which aims to teach children and parents American Sign Language to promote communication early in life.
Raymond, an Astoria resident, first heard about baby signing when her sister-in-law began signing with her nephew. With her interest in languages, majoring in Spanish and English in college, she then decided to begin teaching her then-5-month-old daughter how to sign.
“I just love languages and I thought it would be fun to teach her,” Raymond said. “Every single day seeing her sign there were new things I was learning about her.”
Her daughter took around two months to pick up the signs and realize that it was a way to communicate with her mother. Raymond taught her how to sign words such as “milk” and “light” and noticed her daughter was learning through her modeling.
“Every time I would say a particular word I would sign it to her,” Raymond said. “It’s easier to pick up the word rather than the strain of sound.”
She later also taught her second daughter how to sign. Raymond said that teaching children how to sign at such a young age reduces the level of frustration that comes from not being able to communicate with their parents or caregivers. She added that learning ASL increases the children’s self-esteem and self-confidence because their needs are met more quickly.
“Once your baby starts to figure out what they are doing with their hands is actually helping you communicate, then they pick it up fast,” Raymond said.
One important thing that parents have to keep in mind is being consistent in teaching their children, according to Raymond. Babies usually are not able to sign until they are 6 months old and begin picking up many signs between 7 to 12 months of age.
Raymond teaches parents out of their homes in either Astoria or Long Island City, and also at local bookstores and shops. Starting in March, she will begin giving Saturday classes at Raising Astoria, located at, 26-11 23rd Ave., as part of an eight-week course. Parents who are interested in taking part in the course can register on www.mysmarthandsnyc.com. Registration comes with a book and CD.