Communication Series – Signing: Choose a noise

Signing: Choose a noise


So this might seem like an unusual choice for an early post on signing but I chose it because a student I worked with a while back, who has autism and profound and multiple learning difficulties really enjoyed listening to his staff members may different animal sounds. That’s an interesting image for you I’m sure – a whole load of Teaching Assistants running around making chicken and cow noises.

We were later able to develop this into a range of games which he loved – but the first thing we did was use it encourage the use of signing since this was a communication method he had started to take to. So – there’ll be links throughout that will take you to pictures demonstrating BSL for the words, and at the end I’ll link to ASL as well.

Choosing some animals is the best place to start, ones with easily imitated noises is always a bonus but you can always YouTube and try and learn to copy the noises of more obscure animals on there. The first ones we started with were: cow, monkey, and dog.

As I mentioned above, the student I supported had complex needs, so every day we would make sure there were regular sessions of Intensive Interaction and it was leading on from these that we would start doing animal noises, whilst his attention was engaged. If you made one of the noises he would quickly rush over to you and tilt his head so that you could make the noise next to his ear.Then with each repetition he would giggle hysterically. He was quite happy to accept physical prompting for signing so that’s how we taught him – I would make a cow noise. He would rush over and before he had a chance to get upset that I wasn’t making another noise, another staff member would prompt him to make the sign for cow. We then reinforced this at other points in the day by linking in his literacy work so that we had stories that gave us the opportunity to sign animals.

Over time we were able to slowly faded the physical prompting, and that was when we were faced with working out trying to encourage him to choose between the two. For this we added in visual supports – which had the added bonus of beginning to teach him the skills needed for a second method of communication such as PECS or an AAC device. We would make the noises, holding up the animal cards as we did, and then place the cards in front of him and encourage him to choose which one. As he got used to the activity, he would pick up one of the cards and look at me – and we interchanged either modelling the sign to him and then making the noise, or prompting him to make the sign and then making the noise.

This easy game was a big favourite of his, and over time we added other animal signs. It has to be said that perhaps this game doesn’t teach the most functional signs and that should be considered when deciding how long to spend on it, but for some young people it is an entertaining way of making signing a part of their play and literacy.

Until next time!

Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

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