I saw the sign

I used to loathe Ace of Base. My sister Amanda used to play the CD on repeat and it drove me crazy. I was always more of a Spice Girls kind of kid. I would set up my parent’s front porch as the stage and forced everyone to sit in chairs on the front lawn, watching me lip-sync to their greatest hits. I guess it was a precursor for what my future would hold as a performer.

Ballet performance with Becca during family dinner

I began working in a Verbal Behavior classroom in the Manheim Township School District in October 2012. At that time, I knew “hello” and “thank you” in sign language. Much to my surprise, the teacher and paraeducators in the classroom all used signs with the non-verbal autistic children to get them to mand (request) for items, actions or edibles. I watched the other staff closely and started to pick up the basics: music, jump, more, eat, juice, cookie, etc. I honed my VB and signing skills over the next couple of months and when school let out for summer, I picked up another client who was verbal.

After the placement at Manheim Township, I did not expect to have to use signs again (at least in that capacity), mainly because I had only verbal clients up until I left my position as a TSS in the fall of 2015.

Wrong.

Greyson’s first sign was more. This is the one sign that most VB professionals will tell you not to use. If you teach “more” to a child, it typically becomes overgeneralized and used for everything. Though this was in the back of my mind every time we reinforced his more sign, I didn’t care. I was just happy that he was communicating in some form, even if it was going to be used for everything. This was Greyson’s only sign that he could consistently do until this past week.

Greyson started a new behavior about two weeks ago: putting his thumb into his mouth and making spitting sounds. Yay. Just what I wanted, another behavior that G could do in public that would embarrass me. Little did I know, he was signing for “drink.”!!! He was having difficulty signing for it with the ASL (American Sign Language) sign, so it was modified and taught to him to make it easier for him. Once Derek and I learned what this new “behavior” was, we started reinforcing the crap out of it. If G remotely flinched with his hand near his face, and Derek or I would give him a drink. We were so proud!

Another reason why I am a firm believer that I was placed in that VB classroom for a reason. I wouldn’t find out that reason until 5 years later, but I finally realized it.

“I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes- I saw the sign.”

And man, it was a beautiful sign.

Greyson, mid-sign for “more” during lunch.

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