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Baby Signs Program with Janet Callahan,...

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Preemie Home After 9 Months in the Hospital, Learning Sign Language to Communicate

After her son spent 9 months in the hospital, mom teaches other parents to communicate with their infants and toddlers through sign language

Triy, MI, May 07, 2009 --( Signing mom Janet Callahan wasn't always so interested in signing with her son, Alexander, now 10 months old. In fact, when the Callahan family was expecting their first child in early 2008, teaching sign language to infants was something they'd heard about but hadn't really considered. When their son was born 13 weeks early due to complications, there were more important things to worry about, like keeping him breathing, and getting his tiny 1 pound, 7 ounce body to grow so his lungs could develop. When Alexander was 5 months old, he received a tracheostomy and was placed on a ventilator to support his still under-developed lungs, and suddenly signing became extremely important.

"We were warned that having a trach would cause speech delays," says Callahan, "and that they'd probably need to leave it in until he was at least two, which would basically mean he wouldn't start talking until then, and would have missed all the time normal babies spend babbling and learning to make sounds."

It was apparent to her that the family would need to find another way to communicate with Alexander in the meanwhile, rather than leaving him frustrated and unable to communicate. By keeping him learning about language, and giving him a way he could communicate even before he would normally have been able to talk, sign language seemed to be the perfect solution. In learning about their options, Callahan became convinced that what she'd learned would help other parents too.

In the end, Callahan became certified by two different signing programs, and now teaches workshops and gives presentations. Research has shown that signing with infants and toddlers decreases frustration, helps with language development, enriches parent-child relationships, improves self-esteem, and boosts intellectual development.

Babies can sign long before they can talk because most signs used require only gross motor skills rather than the complex motor skills of making sounds with the mouth. "Alex has some motor skills delays in part due to being so early, so he's a bit slow at signing back, but many babies can use signs in context at 8-10 months," Callahan said.

Callahan has a blog of their story,, which also includes links to news items about sign language and babies, reviews of signing resources they use, updates on classes and other events, and a weekly word for those reading her blog to learn too. Callahan organizes a playgroup for signing families through, and runs an email list for signing families interested in playgroups and classes. "I'm eventually hoping to have a lending library of signing books, videos, and other resources for families as well," she says. "It will be good for Alex to be able to sign with people outside our family, and other families are encouraged to practice their signing because they have a support system this way."

After 291 days in the hospital, Alexander was recently released from the NICU. While he still has some challenges ahead, his parents and nurses are still signing to him everyday and applauding every attempt he makes at signing.

Mrs. Callahan will be presenting an intro to signing at the Macomb BirthNetwork National's Baby Fair, and will have sign-ups for upcoming classes, along with materials for sale.

Baby Fair will be held June 20th, 2009, noon - 6pm

Victory Community C. Building
13315 Fifteen Mile Road
Sterling Heights, MI
Located in the shopping center at the northwest corner of 15 Mile Rd. and Schoenherr Roads

Refreshments served
Everything Baby
Merchant & information tables
Free 20 minute classes on:

infant nutrition
baby herbal/homeopathic health
labor & birth practices that impact your baby’s well-being
preventing baby blues
cloth diapers
parent enrichment class
baby signing

Main Event at 2pm in the auditorium

“The Other Side of the Glass” movie
“From boiling water, to waiting in smoke filled waiting room only to see baby from "the other side of the glass," to now holding his partner's hand during surgery, men's role in birth has been defined by the medical establishment. Now, finally on "the other side of the glass," men are still disempowered and prevented from connecting with their newborn baby in those first minutes of life.”

Movie is 1.5 hours long

Tickets are $5 per person or $7 per couple

Pay at the door or by advance sale at (

Contact: for ticket information or call
Sandie @ 586 255 2243 to reserve your seat and to sign up for classes.

Contact Information
Baby Signs Program with Janet Callahan, Independent Certified Instructor
Janet Callahan
(734) 673-7733

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