Our son has been taught a few words via a baby sign language book since his birth. My wife decided this would be a good idea for a variety of reasons, studies, personal experiences, and other publications. It took a while for us to notice the fruits of these simple hand gestures accompanying words and objects. Eventually our son recognized some of the words and could respond with a smile or a cry (a simple form of yes or no) and he has steadily progressed in his ability to communicate since then. He doesn’t lack verbal communication (“Mama” and “Dada” were his first words) but for more complex words sign language has really helped him be understood.
The first sign language he used was “fan” for all of the ceiling fans in our home. He’d point up and rotate his finger in amazement when they were on and in question/anticipation when they were off. He (like many babies I’m told) really enjoys the ceiling fan. His most useful piece of sign language is “more” because of all the things it implies. More reading, more food, more water, more milk, more playing with the ball. More is a multi-purpose word that he uses to great effect. At first we had to figure out what he was refering to but lately he’s been combining more with another word. This, in turn, has increased his ability to communicate and be understood.
First it was “more” “milk,” which was appropriate considering how early he’d learned the sign for “milk” and employed it to his mother’s exhaustion. Recently he’s been signing for “more” “water” and using his hand as a cover for his mouth to alter the sound to sound like a “W.” While this isn’t exactly the sign for water it is somewhat close and reasonable enough when combined with the sound (in fact he doesn’t do “more” correctly either but that is much closer to being accurate). Our son is steadily progressing in his language abilities… both verbal and signed.