Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Speech Delays and Sign Language

Our two year old daughter is very verbal.  She uses over 300 words regularly and is starting to string together short sentences, which is fairly typical for an average 24 month old.  Six months ago, however, Addie only used three words: mama, dada, and Puppy (her nighttime lovey), despite the fact that we talked, sang, and read stories all day long!

We had her evaluated by a Speech and Language Pathologist and signed her up for weekly speech therapy.  Thankfully, Addie clicked immediately with her SLP and works harder in speech than PT and OT combined!

Here are a few things that worked to “jump start” our daughter’s use of language:

  • We started using ASL for words like milk, eat, and more.  Even though we started signing at 18  months (which is pretty “late” for baby signs), she picked it up right away.  She still signs sorry and please before she says them, which I find adorable!
  • We check out “Signing Time” series videos from the library.  Each video has 30 minutes of singing, dancing, signing, and reading.  Addie has learned her ABCs and can count to 20 just from watching the videos.  My favorite thing is that we watch together—what’s the point of Addie learning signs if Mommy and Daddy don’t know what they mean?addie signing
  • We do a lot of “routine” language activities: she listens to 2 or 3 playtime CDs (“Sounds Like Fun” from Discovery Toys is our favorite), we read the same book (“Snuggle Puppy” by Sandra Boynton) every night before bedtime, she even says the Lord’s Prayer every night with her Daddy.  She can sing the songs and recite the story/prayer right along with us!
  • I printed off pictures of words I wanted her to learn and pasted them on notecards.  I carry those cards in her diaper bag and whip them out when we have a few minutes to spare (waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.).  She learned words like door, stroller, potty, bow, and hippo from her cards and now we’re working on identifying numbers 1-10.
  • I’ve started using two and three-word phrases for objects Addie already knows.  Instead of bear, I’ll say teddy bear; instead of just “more” I’ll have her say “more milk please.”  And it counts if she signs one or two of the words instead of speaking them!

It’s hard to fathom the difference these changes and six months have made in our daughter’s speech!  Can you think of anything special you did with your preemie to help with speech delays?


  1. I’ve never considered this and it’s good to know.

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