Inside the Alexandria Coffee Shop, there is quite a "conversation" going on, and it's babies doing the talking. They are talking with their tiny hands. It's a class called Tiny Fingers, taught by sign language interpreter and certified deaf educator Eileen Ladino. Although there is nothing wrong with these children's hearing they are learning what's known as baby sign language.
Advocates say it gives babies a way to communicate well before they can use words to get what they want. "Just to reduce the frustration of toddlerhood of the terrible twos where they get frustrated because they can't communicate. They can understand what's going on but can't tell you what they are thinking or wanting," says Eileen. The signs are based on American sign language.
18 month old Max is one of the stars of the class, he started signing at 12 months and worked his way up to 90 words. "He has yet to have a full fledged temper tantrum like other children I know in my neighborhood of his age. He'll start of get frustrated and then remember he can tell me what he wants and cuts it off. It's incredible," says Max's mother.
Babies between 8 and 14 months are ripe to learn signing. And rather than delay speech, Max's mom is convinced signing accelerates verbal skills. "I tell people if you child isn't signing they are way behind, it gives them a real jump-start on learning language," she proclaims.
Whether baby sign language is a craze or has enduring popularity remains to be seen, but Ladino is convinced the lasting benefits will continue to attract customers.