I Want More:
the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
Rogers Bridge » I Want More: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
Baby sign has become extremely popular within the last decade and there are great benefits to using baby sign language early. Research supports using sign language early to help with communication and increase verbal word production.
One of the most popular signs, for good reason, is “more”. “More” is an easy word to sign as it involves your two hands coming together at midline. This is an extremely easy movement pattern and children pick up on this sign fast.
When a child isn’t able to communicate verbally, learning to sign “more” is very empowering. It helps increase a child’s ability to express their wants. They quickly learned that signing “more”, gets them something in return.
But what happens when the sign isn’t taught or used correctly. When a child is learning a new word, there must be a connection to the verbal word, signed word, and the results of using that word. How we introduce the word and how the child is reinforced, is what determines the meaning of that word to the child.
One of my patients, a 2-year-old little girl, has been attending daycare since she was a baby. This daycare participates in circle time where they read books, sing songs, and learn new signs. I love that they are teaching sign language to these children! This helps to decrease frustration, increase communication, encourages independence, and empowers the child. This patient has a few verbal words and signs, but she is not able to communicate consistently.
When I bring this patient into the therapy room, she looks around at the toys and she immediately signs “more”.
Here’s the problem… She has been taught to use the sign for “more”, but she doesn’t understand what the sign means. “More” should indicate that you would like to have another of whatever it is you already have in front of you. In this instance, the sign for “more” does not communicate anything to me other than I know she wants something, but I don’t know what she wants. I assume that she wants to play with a toy in the room, but she has not given me other clues as to what she wants to play with. She is not looking at a specific toy. She is now looking at me and signing more. She is using the sign for “more” as a general term to indicate, “I want something.” Now I must figure out what she wants. We end up playing a guessing game where I bring out a toy and ask, “Do you want to play with the doll?” For her, I am not asking the right question which leads to frustration and a lot of head shaking.
My patient is frustrated with me because she was taught to use the sign for “more” to communicate her wants. Why don’t I understand her? She must feel like I am choosing not to give her what she wants, and she gets very upset about it. I am upset for her as well. I really wanted today’s session to focus on vocabulary but instead we work through a meltdown. This situation causes her to be untrusting of me and results in her not wanting to play with me.
I don’t dislike the sign for “more”. But my experience indicates that it is usually taught and used incorrectly.
How should signs be taught and used? Instead of teaching “more” first, teach a word that is specific to the current need of a child. If they are hungry, use the sign for “eat” every time you give them food. Even if the child wants more food, use the sign for “eat”. That way the word “eat” is directly related to food. This process will lead to much less confusion. Once they use the word “eat” consistently over several days, then you can add “more” for “more eat.”
10 words to teach instead of “more”:
The words listed above are functional words and state a specific need a child may have. They empower the child to give a clear request and you aren’t left guessing at what the child wants. Working on these words first will help ensure that the child has a better understanding of the meaning of the individual words and can communicate those specific needs easily. This decreases frustration for both the child and their communication partner.
If your child is having trouble communicating with others, please give us a call. We offer free phone consultations to help determine if your child would benefit from a speech language evaluation.
"Jessie is such a loving and caring therapist. Her passion for helping her patients and families show every visit. She is open to what works for each patient while being effective and productive. She is responsive and able to adapt to her patient's moods. Speech therapy has never been my son's favorite, and he has been to known to be a bit difficult, but it never slowed Jessie down. She was always so loving and made the sessions fun for him. I would recommend her to anyone looking for a great therapist." – Belinda