Saturday, May 16, 2009

Combining Sign Language with EC

I would like to give a bit of a warning and an apology at the beginning of this post. By now, my readers have probably become aware that I write a lot about my son's bathroom habits. It is because of my scientific nature that I do this. I began our journey in elimination communication (EC) partly out of curiosity. I was curious to see how it would work, and IF it would work. I wanted to create a journal to chronicle each step, and because I'm sure others are curious, I wanted to make that journal public. That is in part how my blog started. And so I will give a warning that this post contains details about how Jonah eliminates. And I will apologize just this once, for all of my posts containing the somewhat messy details. I have actually gotten several messages asking that I post more about our methods of EC, and so I genuinely believe that people want to know more about it. As such, there will be detailed posts about the topic so many mommies are eager to discuss (I'll just come right out and say it: poop.)

There are three methods of dealing with Jonah's eliminations. The most preferable is to see his cues, take him to either his training potty or the big person's potty, hold him over the potty and give him the signal of "ssssss" (for urination) or "poopoo" (for bowel movements.) This is what we are striving for, because it is the easiest and takes the least amount of effort (once cues and signals are established.) The second, and probably the most used method in our house, is to see his cues and catch the eliminations in a diaper. The diaper is not actually on him, but is under him (the top is held out in front to catch urination.) I still use signals for this method, but the whole process is less intrusive on his activities. Sometimes I will take him to his changing table to use this method as well. For whatever reasons, taking him to the potty seems to disrupt his urge to go, but taking him to his changing table encourages elimination. I have my theory as to why this is, but that is for another post. This method is second best. Jonah is never actually in his eliminations, but I still dirty a diaper. This method is about the same amount of work as changing a dirty diaper (except the diaper usually does not need to be pre-rinsed.)

The third, and less desirable method, is just an old-fashioned diaper change. We've been using this a lot more frequently in our house, because Jonah has been asserting his independence. He hasn't been as "attached" the last couple of months. He would rather play indepentently with his toys instead of ride in the sling while I do chores. As much as I love to play with him, I do have a household to run and that includes laundry, cooking, scrubbing toilets... He isn't in my direct sight as much as he used to be. Therefor cues get missed often. His cues are also forever changing. I'm finding that to be the biggest obstacle in EC; his cues have been changing since we started.

Until recently, I've been using the ASL sign for "potty" when I take him to the toilet, and the sign for "change" when I put a diaper on him. I am not sure why it did not occur to me to include sign language with my signals while he is pottying, but it is something that I am trying to incorporate now.

To sign the word potty, make the ASL letter T by closing your fist and placing your thumb between your middle and pointer fingers. Wiggle your fist back and forth as if knocking on a door.
To sign the word "change"cup your palms together with the left hand on the bottom and the right on top. Rotate your palms so that they change positions, and the left hand ends up on top.

I have recently read that infants consider urinating and bowel movements two different things. It is not all "going potty" but is actually two seperate actions. This makes sense, because I give two different verbal signals to Jonah for each elimination. Since my verbal signals are each unique, the signs that I use for each must also be unique. I have decided to continue to use "potty" as the sign for bowel movements. I am still trying to figure out what sign to use for urination. I chose to pair "potty" with bowel movements because Jonah already seems to have that association. I think that he may already be trying to use the sign as he is giving me his cues for bowel movements. I have seen him wave a closed fist before several bowel movements, however it is difficult with baby signing to tell at first if the child is actually performing the sign. The more I see it, and the more that Jonah fine tunes it, the more confident I get that it is in fact the real sign. With his first sign, "milk" (which I used as a sign for nursing) it was difficult to tell if he was really signing it, or just opening and closing his fist randomly. It is typical for only close caregivers to be able to recognize an infant's signing.

I am still a little stuck though. I am not sure if I should only use these signs when I take him to the potty, or if I should also use them when I catch his eliminations and when I change his diaper. In a way, they are the same because the signs are referring to his act of elimination, not the method of disposal. But, I would kind of like to use sign language to differentiate the methods and hopefully to encourage going to the potty full time in the future. I think that to keep it less confusing to Jonah, I should use the signs to refer to his eliminations in all situations, and that is most likely what I will end up doing. It seems to be the simplest solution.

1 comment:

  1. Hello! I happened to find your post on ASL + EC when searching for a picture of the "potty" sign to make a cheat sheet for our preschool. I realize your post was some time ago, but just in case you have another little one learning to sign or other readers are interested:
    * pee = the ASL sign for the letter "p", with the middle finger touching your nose. (See example here: There's also the variation where you just fingerspell p-e-e, but that seems a bit much for an infant/toddler to master. Our daughter took longer to sign this one than she did "potty"; and generally just points with her index finger to her nose.
    * poop = right hand in hitchhiker (fist with thumb up) and left hand in fist on top of right hand, with fingers around right thumb; then pull thumb down and out of left fist - i.e. a representation of a bolus exiting the bum. (See example here: Our daughter knows this sign and sometimes tries it, but generally sticks to using the "potty" sign, as this is easier for her.
    Hope this helps!