Every parent in the world has leaned into the cradle and picked up a screaming baby and moaned, “if only you could talk. You’re not wet. There’s no pin sticking into you (dating myself, aren’t I?). You were fed half an hour ago… what IS it?”
Every parent in the world has wondered why their seven month old pushes away the proffered spoon and then cries as he or she watches their bowl emptied and rinsed out.
And, according to Brandy Brass Rafeek, there is no need for such baby-parent frustration. It’s all about communication.
But, let’s back up a bit. Brandy graduated in a program for American sign language, with the career goal of being a sign language interpreter. As she began her job search after training, the sheer weight of the “political” environment turned her dream into her nightmare. She decided to change gears.
And the new “gear” arrived quite by accident.
When her own baby was just six months old, Brandy on a whim started to teach her sign language. Within one month, Kaylah had learned three signs and was interacting reliably. The signs? “More,” “Ball” and “Mommy.”
Five months later, the baby could communicate 100 signs, communicating complicated thoughts to her Mom in words she was not yet able to say. “I never had the problem of not figuring out what she wanted. There were never temper tantrums… from either of us,” says Brandy.
When her daughter was 18 months old, she woke up screaming with a nightmare. Brandy rushed into her room. Without speaking a word, Kaylah told her mom there were horses under her bed and elephants in her closet. Big, scarry stuff. Brandy was able to open the closet door, turn on the light and show her daughter there were no monsters in there. Similar with under the bed. In 10 minutes, her child was asleep again. Rewind the scenario to a non-verbal, non-signing child and you’d have an hour of crying, alot of placating, bewilderment on both sides and a parent sleeping beside the child for hours. Kaylah is now 3 and still signs with her Mom. When they’re in a “ssshhh” location, Brandy can communicate effectively.
So… Brandy has decided other parents might want to be able to develop the same bond. After all, if babies can learn to wave “bye-bye” at six months, why not “milk” and “juice” and “cracker” and “food.” Thus, Sweet Signs, a business that teaches parents and their babies communication through sign language is now in operation. Brandy has classes running at a number of locations: Serenity Birth Studio on Commerce Park, Innisfil and Bradford libraries, the Kinder Musik Studio on Bell Farm Rd and community rooms at Zehrs stores. Her classes are open to parents and their babies and caregivers and siblings.
For instance, Mom and baby can enjoy the six session course for $90 and if Grandma wants to come along, it’s an additional $15. Brandy includes handouts and involves music and story telling in her 90 minute sessions. She also offers a compressed, intensive one-day workshop for parents whose schedules don’t permit the six session commitment. She limits each program to 10 parents, 10 babies (and extras). And classes involve dads as primary caregivers, too. The intense classes hold up to 50 people.
I asked about siblings. “Actually, I just finished a class yesterday where Mom and 10-month old baby came, along with four year old sibling. They all signed trogether. That baby learned more quickly than all the others, likely because the four year old and her other two siblings were all interacting with the baby.”
Sweet Signs … parents tell Brandy this about the result of her courses…
“we’re closer to our baby, the bond is much deeper”
“we see the uniqueness of the baby’s personality”
” there’s less frustration; if the baby wants water, he signs water”
“I have lots of letters from parents saying it just changed their lives, and their relationship with their baby.”
A lot of people think signing is just for hearing impaired people, according to Brandy. But studies have shown that babies who sign learn verbal skills much faster. Children from 6 months to 4 years do very well, basically until they’re speaking in full sentences. Brandy has a friend with a two year old who isn’t speaking yet but is signing very effectively.
Brandy maintains that signing boosts a child’s early self esteem… critical when you estimate how young children are when they arrive at day care centres. “It’s another language you’re giving your children and yourself. It helps with self esteem, that’s what everyone in my classes notice. When their babies at such a young age can communicate what they want or how they’re feeling, they are so proud that their parents understand.”
Because her programs are priced so reasonably ($90 for the six week program, $35 for the intense one-day), these are great gift certificates. Brandy has set up her business so people can register three ways…
* by phone at (705) 424-0196
* by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
* through the Sign With Your Baby website… www.signwithyourbaby.com, click on classes, click Ontario, click Barrie, click Brandy!
What a remarkable gift this young woman is giving to new parents and to babies. And to think it’s all because she didn’t want to play politics! Lucky us!