Cool Product Alert! ASL ‘I Love You’ hand teething toy!

When my son just started teething I hit the web to find somewhere to order a wooden teething toy similar to what I had seen friends use for their babies. I loved the idea of something more natural in his hands and mouth over something plastic. To my delight I was able to find this awesome ‘I Love You’ ASL hand-shape wooden teether on Etsy! Just the other day I came across it again and thought I’d share!

If you are looking for a great teething product, I recommend checking them out! We loved it!

Karen Hewko
My Smart Hands Hamilton

Photo Credit: Little Sapling Toys Etsy Page. Click the photo to be taken to the listing!

Signing Stories: An Update on a previous story!

We really do love hearing your signing stories, and we are so excited to share this update from Mom Jessica, and baby Madelene who we featured on the blog back in September! It’s so great to see the progress of babies and their signing. Thank you so much for sharing Jessica!

Hello again,

Just wanted to share an update on little Madelene who you featured on the MSH blog back in September.
I am happy to share this video with you and the rest of My Smart Hands. Thanks for your interest in our progress! Madelene (who will be 18 months in a few days) loves Laura’s ABC song and it has helped her recognize some of her letters already. Signing, in general, has done so much for us and for her. Lately, signing has even helped her learn several colors. It’s fun seeing her progress. She was just a day shy of a year old when she was first on your blog and knew about 8 signs. At almost 18 months now she has been taking in signs very quickly and uses about 70 different signs. As she’s starting to talk more, I’ve noticed that I show her fewer signs for things but I’m trying to routinely give her more signs because it’s just fun!  
Thank you!


I LOVE YOU hand Valentine’s Day Craft

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and we have a fun craft you can do with your toddler while teaching them the sign for ‘I Love You’.

ASL I Love You Valentines Day Craft

What you’ll need:
-Red craft paper
-Glue Stick

What do do:
-Trace your child’s hand on the craft paper, and cut out around the fingers. (Or you can cut out hand shapes as shown here).
-Have your child decorate the hand with drawings or stickers
-Glue down both the Middle and Ring fingers to form the ‘I Love You’ hand shape.
-Help them address the Valentine to whomever they’d like to give it to!

Fun Fact: Did you know, the ‘I Love You’ sign is made using the ‘I’, ‘L’ and the ‘Y’ ASL alphabet signs?

Have fun!!

Signing Stories: Extra love for Daddy!

We love hearing your Signing Stories, and this one brought a tear to my eye! If you have a signing story to share, please send it to rcdirector(at) and you could be featured!

My daughter Bailey did her first sign, ‘milk’, at 7.5 months old. We had been working on that, along with Mommy, Daddy and eat. By 9 months she didn’t show much interested in the other signs at all, or so we thought! Her Daddy often goes away on business, and had a flight cancellation the last time he left. I had Bailey sitting beside me playing with her toys happily when I placed a video call to chat with him. As soon as she heard his voice she looked right at him and started signing ‘Daddy’ and saying ‘Dada’ with a huge smile on her face! It was the first time we even saw her attempt it. Daddy was so moved he actually had tears in his eyes! Thank you so much My Smart Hands for your great videos and encouraging us to sign with our daughter!

Thank you so much for sharing Clara!!

Signing Stories: Grandfather learns signs to communicate with granddaughter!

We love hearing Signing Stories, and recently had one of our instructors, Melody from Calgary, share this with us. Heartwarming!

I have a little story to share that is just so amazing!! A few years back
when I started teaching for MSH, I had a man contact me who was interested
in learning ASL. He had a granddaughter (in Toronto!!) who was having some
developmental delays. His son and daughter-in-law had begun signing with
her and when he went to visit, he wanted to be prepared to communicate
with his new granddaughter. Amazing, right? He wasn’t even living in the
same city!! What a great Granddad! Well I often wondered what happened
after he finished both my Level 1 and Level 2 classes…I just got an
email and with his permission I would like to share:

Hi Melody,

I moved to Toronto last December near my son’s house.  I hope your signing
classes are still running and going well.  My older granddaughter is five
now but still has very little fine motor control so a lot of her signs
look much the same. But her parents and the teachers at her school are
using picture cards a lot now – she has good understanding and will
usually point clearly at one card if there are not more than three
choices, sometimes four.

This is supplemented with yes-no questions which she answers by pointing
to “yes” and “no” cards since she can’t sign yes or no or even nod or
shake her head clearly. This gets like the old parlour game of “Twenty
Questions” but her Mom especially is getting good at zeroing in on what’s
wrong or what she wants to do. But she does still use signing and has
correctly notified her Mom the last three times she had a bladder
infection, by signing “hurt” and pointing.  We keep signing to her to help
her with understanding her classmates – deaf or non-verbal – who are
signing to her.

My younger granddaughter is a “typical” child and has taken to signing
like a duck to water – starting when she was six months old. She’s 15
months old now and we find ourselves having little conversations with her
– e.g. playing with Granddad in the backyard; Mom comes out on the deck:
She signs “eat”.  Granddad: no, it’s not time for lunch yet. She signs
“banana” Mom: no, you had a banana for breakfast.  Etc.

Both the girls also sign to each other and seem to interpret better than
the adults.  One will make a sign then they will both hoot and laugh but
the adult didn’t get the joke. Also both at one time or another have
alerted her parents that her sister has a problem they hadn’t noticed.

Thanks for my great start to baby-signing and I can verify with my
grand-kids it is bringing all the advantages My Smart Hands claims for it
and it’s made my older granddaughter’s hard wee life a whole lot easier
for her and us.

WOW!! I literally had tears while reading this!

Thank you so much for sharing Melody! What an amazing story, and Grandfather!

Signing Stories: Please! Cheese!

We love great signing stories. See what this Mom has to say about signing with her daughter!

Before my daughter was born, I knew I wanted to teach her to sign. I had always been fascinated with the research on signing for hearing babies. We loved watching Firese’s videos and enjoyed other baby signing books and videos.
I started signing “more” to my daughter at about 6 or 7 months but it wasn’t until 9 or 10 months that she really started to pick up on it. Once I knew she got it with “more” we moved onto “milk”, “all-done”, and her favorite- “dog”! She will be one this Friday and she’s up to 8 signs and loves it!
Funny story, we’re teaching her to sign “O” for Cheerios and she doesn’t do it yet but when she saw me pull out the box of Cheerios yesterday she frantically signed “please” “cheese”!!!! Haha! She knows that signing sometimes gets her a snack so I guess she just substituted a sign she knew in hopes it would work!
Here are a couple clips of her signing at 11 months.

How cute is she? Do you have a signing story you’d like to share?  Email us at and YOU could be featured on our blog!

A New Era of “Speech”

Guest post

Since I’ve been legally able to have a job, I’ve worked with kids. Summer camps, nannying, volunteer work at schools. Every age group, every season, indoor and outdoor. I’ve lost countless pairs of sneakers to “accidents,” had to clean puke out of my hair, and changed hundreds of diapers. And I’m pretty sure I still have glitter embedded in my scalp from a Rainbow Fish craft I did five years ago. But in the fall of 2011, I tackled a demographic fairly unfamiliar to me: children with physical and developmental disabilities. I was lucky enough to be given a job as a teacher’s aide at the Mary Cariola Children’s Center, a nationally renowned and recognized school tailored to children afflicted with all types of Autism, Angelman Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, and many other lesser known physical disorders. Their mantra is “Discovering every child’s potential” and it is a motto they take extremely seriously. I was placed in what’s referred to as a “walker” room, meaning all the students had independent mobility. My classroom was comprised of seven boys between ages of seven and 11. Of the seven, four were almost completely nonverbal, the physical afflictions they had making “true speech” almost impossible. A few words here and there, affirmative or negative runts to answer questions. But I never had an issue comprehending them. Why? Because they could sign. They signed fluently and beautifully. Three of them used Dynavoxes, feats of interactive technology that allow communication in nonverbal persons. Dynavoxes work similarly to an iPad or touchscreen phone: you touch buttons on the screen and the computer responds. But don’t expect any Angry Birds or Pinterest here. These boys were building sentences and learning vocabulary. Large font buttons of words and phrases, along with corresponding picture and sign gesture, are used to string together sentences, questions, and requests, even jokes. After building your sentence, the machine would your words in a kid-friendly robot’s voice.

Dynavoxes not only give audible cues by clearly speaking and pronouncing words, but visual cues as well. After only two weeks with the device, one of my boys increased his sign vocabulary by 13 words! Simple sign is at the core of the education program designed for these students, even those who are able to communicate verbally. One of my boys was low-functioning Autistic and had a penchant for constantly quoting lines from Shrek and Spongebob Squarepants. But his knack for memorization helped him pick up sign quickly, and I’m sure if you ever find yourself needing to know how to say “smelly ogre” in sign language, he will gladly teach you.

Sign language isn’t just critical in communication. ASL is also a great way to stimulate and hone both fine and gross motor skills in kids with motor related delays. The act of signing helps increase awareness of the hands and wrists, which is a huge struggle for many students at MCCC, especially those with Angelman Syndrome. Angelman is a genetic disorder also known as “Happy Puppet” Syndrome because it is characterized by loose, floppy limbs and exuberant, joyful outlooks. Disorders that target joints and ligaments make menial tasks, like holding a pencil or using a fork, very frustrating and difficult. But, combined with occupational and physical therapy, sign language has been shown to positively affect and increase the use and awareness of hands and fingers, which is immeasurably important in he long run when, when the kids grow up and are responsible for feeding, clothing, and supporting themselves.

The life skills I saw being taught and executed in my time with Mary Cariola are not so different from those I was encouraged to value myself; embrace education, cherish friends and family, be responsible with what you have, and above all else, live a life with self-respect and love for who you are, flaws and all. These kids are given a chance at a normal, happy life because of the incredible teachers, aides, therapists, and social workers that make up the MCCC family, and it was an honor to experience the growth and accomplishments of these amazing kids first hand. I learned that a high IQ isn’t as important as a good heart; you don’t need to be deaf to learn and enjoy American Sign Language, and most importantly, live life with joy and eagerness. Because as long as you are willing to learn, someone is willing to teach.

Written by:
Kelly Sciarratta
(My Smart Hands Intern)