A mother, a teacher, and a blogger, Melissa Droegemueller (pronounced Dreg-a-miller) first worked with American Sign Language (ASL) when her daughter, Addie, who was born 14 weeks early, faced speech challenges at 18 months old. Their speech language pathologist suggested they try the Signing Time Series, videos designed to teach babies, children, and their parents sign language using music and movement.
Just a month after Melissa introduced Addie to ASL, Addie was signing and speaking to communicate. After experiencing the power of sign language firsthand, Melissa became a Baby Signing Time Instructor with the Signing Time Academy. She offers San Antonio sign language classes for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents and, if you’re interested, registration for her January classes ends THIS Sunday, December 15th. Visit this post for details.
You created your blog to encourage and support others who want to learn American Sign Language with their babies and toddlers. What other topics do you cover on Lone Star Signers?
I also write about early education, literacy, some of the medical issues our girls have been through, and homeschooling. I’ve kept a private family blog for years, but I wanted to create a safe place for like-minded families in San Antonio to connect about the issues that matter to us.
As a parent of a preemie, what resources did you find to be most helpful to you when your daughter was born?
When Addie was born at 26 weeks in 2008, we went through some scary and isolating times. We were in the NICU for 135 days, followed by a five-month winter quarantine at home (to protect her from RSV germs). This was pre-smart phone and we didn’t even have Internet at home yet! Times have changed for preemie parents (for the better!) with all of the latest and greatest technology available.
I highly recommend that new preemie parents get connected with Hand to Hold, a non-profit organization based out of Austin that connects parents in need of support with seasoned preemie parents. Addie was their 2012 Preemie Power Photo contest winner and we spent a lot of time with the founder, board, and staff last year—we cannot say enough about their personal, caring hearts! (We certainly wish Hand to Hold had been around in 2008.) We also appreciate all of the work that the March of Dimes does to create awareness and we LOVE shopping at It’s a Preemie Thing.
Tell us about the sign language classes you offer. What can parents expect?
In a word: FUN! We meet weekly, for one hour, and each class in the 14-week session revolves around a theme like family or food. We read books, sing songs, play games, create a craft—all while learning and reinforcing a handful of ASL signs. Play & Sign classes are family-centered, so our time together is casual: parents and children playing and learning on the floor together, building community with the other families in the class.
In January 2014, we’ll be adding a 6-week class specifically for babies (4-12 months) and their caregivers. Baby Bounce & Sign will be just 30 minutes each week and emphasize the signs that are most relevant for the littlest signers.
Coming later in the spring is a Preschool Sign & Learn class specifically for children ages 3-5. Using the base curriculum of Play & Sign classes, there will be a greater emphasis on letters, numbers, and preschool skills (reading, math, fine-motor).
Your classes are open to babies through preschoolers. What resources or classes do you recommend for teaching ASL to older kids?
Great question! When we started signing with Addie at 18 months, I don’t think any of us would have guessed that we would still be signing at the age of 5 (with no plans to stop!). American Sign Language is a beautiful second language and not something that a child “outgrows” when they start speaking.
We love the Signing Time DVDs (<—- use this affiliate link to Melissa’s store or you can borrow 26 volumes available for FREE at the library) and recommend them for children (and adults) of all ages. We also love lifeprint.com, which has 30 free college-level ASL courses available on their website. Of course, the best way to learn ASL is from native speakers.
What post of yours has received the biggest response? And, which post was your favorite to write?
Without a doubt, my most-viewed post has been “My Baby Needs a Helmet | Brachycephaly.” Both of our girls were born with flat heads due to their position in the womb, and our younger daughter wore a cranial remolding helmet for six months when she was an infant. Writing about it gave me a chance to work through some of my lingering emotions in the hope that it may help another parent going through the same situation.
My favorite post has to be “Introvert Mama, Extrovert Child.” Being a mom is a dream come true and I am so thankful that I get to stay home and teach my girls, but discovering WHY I am so tired at the end of each day was life-changing for me. My five-year-old and I are on both on the extreme ends of the introvert-extrovert continuum—for our family, it has to be about balance!