It’s my first blog post! Look at me, I’m a blogger!
Ok, I’ve calmed down now and put away the exclamation mark klaxon.
Welcome to SuperHands!
So, you are very welcome to the SuperHands blog. You probably know a little about SuperHands - we are Ireland’s number one baby sign organisation. Boast, boast.
However, let me tell you a bit about how SuperHands came about and who’s behind it - ME! (Darn it, that one just slipped in.)
So who am I? Well, my name is Miriam Devitt and I am the person who brought SuperHands to life. I like to think I gave birth to it, that it’s my second baby.
What is baby sign language?
I am mum to Robin, who is now a strapping child of 8. Yes, she can speak, no, she’s not deaf, and as far as I know I have not done her any lasting damage by teaching her to sign when she was just a little squish.
When I was pregnant I used to tap my bump, and she would tap back. You know when you’re so heavily pregnant you can identify body parts: “Oh, I got a heel! Hup, that’s a shoulder right there!”. And you can sit and watch your baby bump move about like a little hippo about to break the surface, with various lumps and bumps gliding across under your belly skin for hours on end. It’s kind of freaky, but also fascinating and amazing. Anyway, as we sat there tapping to each other and me chatting away to her, I really got the feeling that we were properly communicating. And I thought, well if I can communicate with my unborn baby then she’ll definitely be ready to connect with me when she pops out. And sure enough she was. From day one we would stare into one another’s eyes and I could see her taking everything in from me and the other people and things around her.
Babies are incredible. They are social animals (as are big people, though they sometimes lose the skill) who crave and need to communicate with their caregivers. One of my favourite baby books is You Are My World by Amy Hatkoff. It’s so simple and lovely that it can even be read by befuddled and sleep-deprived new parents. In it Hatkoff says “The small dance steps of everyday experience create secure attachments, known to be essential for all aspects of healthy development.” In other words, all your baby needs in those first few months is you, their loving caregivers. Also, you should give them milk. But nourishment doesn’t only come in liquid form, it comes in the form of love. And to a baby that’s communication. Through touch, through speech, through taste, through movement.
The MILK moment
So when I read about baby sign I knew I had to try it. As an actor, a storyteller, a teacher, a writer, communication in all forms plays a very important part in my life. So it seemed natural that I should try this with my baby daughter. At first I lazily signed a bit, not really sure about it but happy to give it a whirl. Then I could see she was starting to understand me. If she was fussing for milk and I couldn’t get my top up quick enough, I would sign “milk” saying, Yes my darling, I will give you milk in one minute, milk is on it’s way etc. And then one day, when clearly milk was not on its way quick enough, she looked up at me, put her dimpled fist in the air and open and closed it repeatedly and Hallelujah! she was signing. I thought it was the absolute cutest and cleverest thing I’d ever seen and was convinced my child was some kind of prodigy. Aren’t parents adorable?
And thus began our signing journey in earnest. So excited was I by this signing epiphany that I signed up (every pun intended) for a course in ISL (Irish Sign Language) and went on to study it for two years. In the meantime other parents started asking me what I was doing with (to!) my child and as there were no courses near me, I decided to test out a few baby sign classes on friends with babies. I put the beginnings of a baby sign course together and got a great response. Over the following couple of years I honed the course, developed an advanced course, started to franchise SuperHands courses around Ireland, and then published Ireland’s first Illustrated Dictionary of Baby Sign. In more recent times we published Ireland’s first baby sign app for iPhone and Android, and will soon add online courses to our repertoire.
And that’s where SuperHands came from.
In the next post I will talk more about what baby sign is and what its benefits are, so stay tuned for more SuperHands blog fun.
See you all then!