TinyTalk is run by Helen Reeves-Howard and she says the group is continuing to go from strength to strength as parents and babies learn sign language so they can communicate with each other.
She said: “I started going to a class when my son Ollie was only five-weeks-old and now at two-and-a half he knows around 200 signs, and it has even helped him get emergency medical treatment.
“He had a temperature of 40°C and was a very poorly little boy but was too young to be speaking. When we got to the hospital he used his signs to show he was in pain and it was in his throat and doctors found out he had tonsillitis.”
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Helen explained how, from a very early age, babies are aware things have names, and from the ages of four to six months they start linking words with objects.
However, their vocal cords, tongue and mouth muscles are not sufficiently developed and co-ordinated to produce easily recognisable speech before about 12-18 months. As a result, frustration can take hold as both parent and child struggle to understand each other.
Jemma Benson and daughter Lianna, who is nearly 18-months-old, attend the toddler TinyTalk class at Buxton United Reformed Church. The 29-year-old said: “Knowing we could communicate months before she was able to talk physically has brought us closer together. The classes are important as it opens a whole new method of communication which we wouldn’t have.”
Waylaying fears, Helen explained that learning sign language does not impact on the speech of the child in later life.
She said: “In fact it’s the complete opposite, babies and toddlers who baby sign have a 70 per cent wider vocabulary when they go to nursery than children who don’t. They are not just little blobs, they are people with wants, needs and brains and a desire to express themselves and the classes help to bridge that gap.”
Natalie Buxton, 36, attends with Caleb Lomas, who is 12-weeks-old. She added: “It’s a great class. I’m already finding it really useful.”
The group meets every Tuesday from 9.30am for toddlers and 11am for babies.For more information, email [email protected] or phone 07837 742 287.