Sixteen-month-old Nashville Minchau can't speak very many words but he can tell his mother that he wants food, or milk or a banana. He can tell her if he needs help, if he is scared or if something is hot.
He can even communicate when he sees a bug, a bird, a train, a plane or a fire truck.
Nashville can speak likely fewer than 20 words but he uses baby sign language for more than 50 terms.
"If you can nod 'yes' and 'no,' most babies will do those signs," Amanda says. "They have the mental capacity to communicate long before they can use words. Babies have tantrums because they aren't able to communicate."
Minchau runs Sticky Hands where she teaches parents in the Fraser Valley about baby sign language using a U.S. copyrighted system called Baby Signs Program.
In 1982, California child development professors Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn found that babies between the ages of 10 months and two years were using simple gestures all on their own.
They researched this, wondering if the process could be helped along. They created the Baby Signs Program and have continued to study baby signing for two decades. The company website says baby signing "has dramatic benefits, including decreasing frustration for babies and parents, enriching the parent-child bond, boosting emotional development, helping babies talk sooner-even raising IQ."
Minchau first got into it when, as a special education teaching assistant, she took an open water SCUBA diving course and thought learning American Sign Language (ASL) might be useful. She learned divers have their own set of signs for underwater, but the sign language was still beneficial.
She volunteered at a deaf church, and continued to use sign language in her special education work for kids with autism, Down's syndrome and others who have a hard time communicating.
Then Minchau had a baby and thought it would be fun to do sign language with little Geran. She started to research and found out about the baby sign language program. "I was floored on how amazing it was," she said. "Because I knew so many more signs, I wasn't just limited to the baby signing. I read the books and I already knew all the signs because 90 per cent are American Sign Language (ASL). We have 10 per cent that are modified."
Some modified words include "hot," which in baby sign language is a more natural blowing movement. The ASL sign for dog involves hitting your hip and snapping, something babies can't do so the modified sign is panting.
"Ten per cent are modified based on babies' natural, real experiences," she said.
For Minchau, signing with her children is more than finding out if they are hungry or if they hurt themselves before they can talk.
"It also boosts their emotional development and their self-esteem," she said.
"Another benefit is infant bonding. In general, mothers tend to bond with their babies sooner, especially if we are the exclusive caregiver. So dad usually bonds with baby later but with baby signing it happens earlier."
Minchau is holding an introductory workshop Wednesday for parents and caregivers of children under two-and-a-half years old, or with children who have difficulty communicating. That workshop then leads to a three-Saturday program to learn more about signing.
Due to high demand, the Wednesday workshop is already full. To find more about Minchau's program visit www.stickyhands.ca.