The Limitations of Sign Language

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It has been a long old while since I last posted. My plan is to fully revive the blog for our trip to Budapest. I am thinking that the Baxter family crossing half of Europe could throw up some some amusing situations not dissimilar to National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
But in the meanwhile, something that has been troubling me: what to do about grammar in sign language. AJ learnt the makaton system of signing which is designed for small children, as far as I understand. She had quite a few words under control before the brain damage kicked in but she is getting some of them back. The trouble is that many need two hands and as she cannot use her right hand this is quite limiting. She also does not have very good fine motor skills in her left hand so is not very accurate. So to form an ‘O’ you need to tap your ring finger and she can’t really be quite that precise. As this is her sign for Otto, this is a pity. The other problem being that however well she might be forming the sign, if he is another room, he is unlikely to get the message!
I imagine that more adult forms of sign language build grammar in. But makaton seems to be a collection of nouns, verbs and adjectives. So AJ has a sign for potty/wee wee/poo. She is pretty clear with it and gets it right most of the time. But I am not sure whether she gets the difference between “I need a wee” and “I have just had a wee”. So sometimes you get her to the potty and she sits down and wees, other times she will already have had one. This seems totally fair enough from what I imagine is the way she sees things. “I do my sign round about the time I wee, sometimes a little before, sometimes a little after.”
When we are looking at elephants, we point at the elephants, we do the elephant sign and we are delighted. We don’t actually expect her to produce an elephant. So I imagine that when it comes to weeing, she feels that it is entirely satisfactory to tell us that she has just weed and we might want to change her nappy rather than feeling compelled to warn us beforehand. She is just saying “wee” rather than “I have weed”, “I am weeing” or “I am going to wee”.
BTW this comes with a major caveat, my makaton is very poor and I am by far the worst of the four of us. There might be a world of nuance that I am missing.
The little girl is doing very well. Fo has taken her to a couple of sessions with PACE. This is a school with people trained by the Peto Institute, which is where we are going in Budapest. They use the same conductive education. She seems to be reacting very well to it. It is very full on compared to the more gentle physiotherapy she has had to date. But AJ is pretty full on herself and responds well to a good rag and an intensive tickle. PACE do not do the sort of intensive course that we will be doing in Budapest and they are very supportive of us wanting to have a very focussed time working on AJ’s problems.

our first lambs

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why kids should not be allowed to design their own food

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