First language acquisition

From reflexes to motor control

Reflexive handshapes

Starting in the first weeks after childbirth, I also had noticed that Juli had formed her reflexive handshapes from time to time as follows: "i", "m", "n", "t", "s" and, ahem though unintentionally and infrequently, the middle finger. :o

Though, these reflexive handshapes would disappear within the second month later or sooner as movements would begin to become smoother and a little less jerky as the baby's muscles and nervous system continues to develop.

But, these reflexive handshapes gradually would fade out within the second month sooner or later as movements would begin to become smoother and a little less jerky as the baby's muscles and nervous system continues to develop. Linguistic (phonological) formations of these handshapes would emerge long months later.

Baby at this stage of week 9 is gaining more control over her/his body than they did when they were younger. They are starting to move arms and legs more smoothly and with purpose. They may begin trying to bat at things with his hands.

Two weeks earlier the baby Juli began to move her hand up and down, right-handed, especially when I interacted with her -- signing milk. Juli also brought her fist to the mouth.

This week, two month old baby Juli's movements were getting a bit more coordinated. She gradually gained some motor control with her hands. She sometimes scratched her face herself in the past, but now when she reached her face with her hands, this time the back of her hands were on her face instead.

Juli was an observer. What is to expect, I guess? After all, babies can't be too much mobile -- they don't crawl nor walk yet. Not that much they can do other than observing, I imagine.

Juli observed closely what adults were conversing. For example, at the end of her baby shower one day, everyone left and Juli was done feeding and stayed awake. She attentively watched me talking with others.

From time to time, Juli moved her hand/arm up and down repeatedly with an intentional look as if she wanted to express something. Could it be that she asked for "milk" or something else?

Besides this, every time she anxiously held her fist in her mouth, I knew she wanted milk.

One evening, Juli's father called me saying that the baby produced (or imitated) "milk". He showed me how she did. He demonstrated a movement of the thumb up and down. I grabbed the camera and rushed to the scene. Missed!

One needs to observe closely to catch a manual play other than different movements, reflexive or otherwise. It isn't always easy. Being a native signer of family, I naturally used my language instincts.

Video clip: It is a second round of ABCs. Juli appeared to be a bit restless, though patient, in the second round.

Now that Juli has increased her attention span and greater alartness, I sometimes fingerspelled a complete set of ABCs to her during play time. She watched with interest the transformation and diversity of the handshapes.

Eye-hand coordination beginning

The 2 months old baby Juli's fingers continued to become a little more coordinated. With the developing eye-hand coordination, she was able to explore her hands and objects. Manual play. She was practicing eye-hand coordinaton.

Although Juli was already aware of her hands earlier, she was now inspecting them closely. She turned them around better to look at her fingers from all sides. She opened and shut her fists, watching each finger as it moved up and down.

baby playing with dangling toys

To help develop her hand-eye coordination, Juli had a dangling toy just out of reach so she had to grab for it.

At first Juli was shy or timid to touch the objects. She explored the movement of the dangling objects by moving the rocker with her body herself. Eventually, she took the attempts to touch them with her hands.

Another activity that I used was the "blanket peekaboo." Juli kept looking at my hand when I played the peekaboo with the blanket. She seemed to realize that my hands were responsible for moving the blanket.

Sometimes I just let Juli look at or read the book herself without me talking, so that both of us can relax. It's a way for her to learn to enjoy reading and to avoid overwhelming stimulating visuals. It's also an opportunity for her to focus on her eye-hand coordination as she touched the book.

Juli still stays fully alert to learn new and old things. We continued to talk with her in sometimes in parentese and sometimes in adult talk. She appeared to enjoy a company, at least when not hungry.

Flying plane

The mother introduced the signed word airplane and then inflected the classifier predicate plane-flying. She playfully transformed it into the ILY handshape. She then articulated I love you and kissed her.

Two weeks later (m4w1), eye-hand coordination had been a relatively big progress that week. The three month old baby Juli enjoyed grasping the black camera strap or other strips. She began to reach, touch and explore a small object such as the tiny stuffed rabbit.

Practicing eye-hand coordination

Some objects are taken for granted. We may have forgotten how creative we can be with ordinary objects in a room what we probably haven't thought of before.

For example, the balloon that Juli got on her first day of life had been floating purposeless in the air for months. Sometimes it could be creepy. One moment it wandered mindlessly in the family room, then next moment you'd find it in the bedroom upstairs.

Anyway, suddenly it then had played its purpose. Juli could grasp the string and practiced her eye-hand coordination with the balloon. Quite useful.

Three month old Juli (m4w3) played with the balloon, learning how her hand, eyes, and the balloon coordinated.

Bringing hands together and to mouth

Between 4 and 7 months, baby bringing hands together is a motor milestone. Another motor skill is rolling over to the side from back. Reaching for an object with a hand. Tranfering objects from hand to hand. Explores objects with hands and mouth. Mouth is baby's window to the world. Hand is one of the firsts to explore.

The three-month-old baby Juli brought her hands together and explored her hands (fidgeting). Not much to say about it but it's a huge milestone in both physical and phonological development which lead to language development.

Juli held a single (index) finger in her mouth instead of the fist. She reached for the tiny rabbit or another object and explored it with hands and in mouth.

Now that Juli discovered her hand and explored it in her mouth, she became more aware of the hands that she had been seeing the hands of adults that we used in our language.

Grabbing objects within reach

A week later (m4w4), Juli began to reach or grab and manipulated some objects, especially grabbing a plate on the table. She showed her desires to take a close look at things. Eye-hand coordination had become much finer.

Now Juli could grab some objects within reach on her own. But, some objects were still out of reach. Juli showed her particular interest in some objects by gazing at them.

Following her long gaze, I brought Juli to the objects to touch and explore. Her father had finally brought her close to the lamp which she had been wondering about ever since the day she was first brought home.

In the past days, Juli had been looking at the tripod standing around next to her play area. The tripod had been around since the day one and Juli probably wondered about it for a long time.

So, I brought her to the tripod to take an inspection.

Who knows what was going in her mind? You know, kids say or think the darnest cute things.

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Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

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Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.