|Many young children or learners with autism or other developmental delays demonstrate a desire to communicate, but may not have functional vocal communication. These children may benefit from learning sign language. Sign language can replace problem behavior that a child "uses" to obtain desired items. Sign language can be used to communicate and expand language skills. Research indicates that sign language can support the development of vocal language in some individuals with autism and developmental delays (Mirenda & Erickson, 2000; Mirenda, 2003; Tincani, 2004).
Purposes of Speak with Sign include:
1. Request (Mand) with Sign
The teacher contrives situations for the learner to request, models the sign and/or physically guides the hands of the learner to produce the sign, and fades these prompts. The child signs and receives the item.
A child may begin to vocalize while signing or a time delay procedure which has been shown to encourage vocalizations can be used (Attanasio, Carbone, Delaney, Zechin-Tirri, & Sweeney-Kerwin, 2006). After the child signs, the teacher models the item name 2-3 times with a brief pause between each model. Vocal communication is encouraged by providing more reinforcement when vocalizations occur of improve. Tamara Kasper in collaboration with Nancy Kaufman also created K&K Sign and Say. This kit provides additional specific methods for shaping vocalizations.
3. Label (Tact)/Identify
Teach labeling/selection for children who speak or sign.
4. Label/Identify by Function, Feature, or Class
Skills can be expanded by teaching concepts such as a function (eat), feature (hot), or class (food).
Vivid photographs of the items in a variety of settings assist the child in generalizing his new sign, new vocalization or both to different examples.
Because the set supplies three examples of each item, a set can be provided to parent, home therapist, or instructional assistant for added practice.
Space is provided on the card back for prompts, notes and data.
8. Teach Additional Skills
The set can be used to develop matching, categorization, sorting, and singular/plural skills.