Key Word Signing for kids with Down syndrome - Ariel's World
Ariel’s World is the journey of a girl who just happens to have Down syndrome & where her namesake scented products raise money for Down Syndrome charities
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Key Word Signing for kids with Down syndrome

Estimated reading time 3 and a half minutes

Without key word signing I would not know that Ariel knew and understood the meanings of around 30 words. Imagine that?

Ariel says about 3-6 words and a few of those not so clearly but she knows signs for around 30 words and (mostly) uses them in context. Last week, after dinner she signed “yoghurt”. She definitely cannot say yogurt and because she could sign it, I knew she wanted yogurt and got it for her. In the supermarket she saw the apples and signed apples. I popped some in a bag and put them in the trolley and we ate one when we got home. I would not have bought the apples if she didn’t sign them. She also knows most of the animals and also colours. We have been going over colours with a baby sign app and also watching a video on You Tube where ladies are singing I can sing a rainbow and signing in Auslan as they go. We have been doing this for a few months and 2 nights ago Ariel did this.

I was so proud! Here is the video we learnt from

I love knowing she understands these things even though she cannot verbalise them. She also gets such great satisfaction when I am able to congratulate her on her comprehension skills. She gets to learn and be gratified knowing she is “right”. Imagine the frustration she would feel if we did not have this skill.

Here is another video we are working on

Unfortunately 100% of the responsibility to learn and implicate this skill falls on me, but I do what I can with the time that I have, and we certainly are making good progress. She has also started to verbalise the word with some of the signs which is ultimately the goal. In the meantime the use of key signs will definitely help with communication between us. I really enjoy learning it as well to be honest!

Key Word Signing For Kids with Down syndrome.

Taken from It appears that the combined use of signed and spoken input can boost early language development significantly, this evidence coming initially from single case-studies, and more recently from larger scale controlled studies.

signing is an “unaided” system, which does not require special equipment
communication is direct, involving normal patterns of eye-gaze and turn-taking
signs derive from a natural language system and can be extended grammatically

Key word signing is also used for learning in kids without disability? Have you used this with your child? I would love to hear about your experience or if you have any recommendations please put them in the comment box.

  • Helen K
    Posted at 10:39h, 28 May Reply

    Nice to find a technique that seems to be working – must be frustrating otherwise. My kids have been learning some Auslan at school, and it is so good for them, and the kids in class who need to connect via sign language. Really important. Good luck!

    • Raylene Barton
      Posted at 10:43h, 28 May Reply

      Thank you so much Helen. It’s so great to hear words of support from other mums, I really appreciate it!

  • Simone
    Posted at 13:52h, 28 May Reply

    I love it! Yes, I am learning so much about key word signing. So important in yrerms of eating too. Great job!

    • Raylene Barton
      Posted at 13:54h, 28 May Reply

      Oh yes the sign for “eat” is her favourite lol! She is a typical fussy 2 year old so having her be able to sign for food she wants is defintley important! Thank you Simone. 🙂

  • Jules @ Toddlersplusteens
    Posted at 19:41h, 18 June Reply

    My heart just melted watching this . I love that you Ariel has made great progress with Key word signing . My students use key word signing combined with proloquo (a fantastic ipad app that gives them another way to communicate and promotes speech . X

    • Raylene Barton
      Posted at 21:01h, 18 June Reply

      Thank you Jules! My heart melts watching it too and Iv watched it a lot!! I will look into that app thank you so much for the tip xx

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