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Sign Language: 21 Words and Signs to Know

The use of American Sign Language (ASL) can open up the world of communication for children who have Down syndrome because it supports the development of expressive language, functional communication, and social skills. Both parents and professionals appreciate the convenience it affords.

With signs, there is no communication device or book to tote, no charging or replacing batteries, no forgetting it at home. Your hands are always with you! In addition to providing a convenient form of functional communication, signing helps children with speech and language disorders improve both their receptive and expressive language skills! -

Open up the lines of communication with your child with signs for "more", "done", "eat", "change" and other signs for everyday items.

1 - MORE: 

To do the sign for more, flatten out your hands then bring your thumbs under to make an O shape. Then, bring your hands together and separate them repeatedly.

2 - ALL DONE: 

You start with palms facing in, then turn the hands so that they are facing out.



3 - BALL: 

Put the fingertips from each hand together with your palms separated but facing each other. You will look like you have a grapefruit sized ball in your hands. Now move your hands apart and together, so your fingertips separate and then touch again.


4 - BATH: 

Make a fist out of your two hands, then move your fists vertically up and down your chest.

5 - BOOK: 

Put your hands together, palm-to-palm. Then holding your pinkies together, open up your hands as if opening up a book.

6 - CAR: 

Place your hands around an imaginary steering wheel. Then turn the wheel from side-to-side as if you were driving.

 7 - DOG: 

Pat your outstretched hand with fingers together on the side of your hip. Just as if you were calling the dog.

8 - CAT: 

With both hands, pinch your thumb and index finger together by the side of each cheek, while keeping your remaining fingers straight out. As you pinch your fingers together take them from each side of your face outward.

9 - EAT: 

Make the sign for eat by taking you strong hand, with the tip of your thumb touching the tips of your fingers and tapping it on your mouth.


10 - DRINK: 

The sign for drink looks just like you are holding and drinking from an imaginary cup. To sign cup, make your hand into a c-shape as if holding a cup in your hand.

11 - MILK: 

The milk sign is a lot like milking a cow (or goat), but without the vertical motion – you are just squeezing the udder. You take both hands, make them into a fist, relax, and repeat.

12 - WATER: 

To sign water, take your strong hand, extending and separating the three middle fingers (the ASL sign for W). Tap your index finger on your chin.

13 - THIRSTY: 

The thirsty sign is made by extending your index finger and moving it down from your chin to your tummy.

14 - PLEASE: 

Take you hand with fingers extended and all together, and thumb extended and sticking out. Take the hand with palm facing in and rub it in a circle on your chest.

15 - THANK YOU: 

Extend your fingers and thumb. Touch you fingers to your chin and bring your fingers forward.

16 - SORRY: 

To sign sorry, make your hand into a fist and rub it in a circular motion across your chest. It is like you are rubbing around your heart because you are truly sorry.

17 - HELP: 

To sign help place your dominant hand on top of your non-dominant palm and move both hands upwards.


18 - SLEEP: 

Start with fingers extended and spread apart. Beginning with your hand over your face, move your fingers down to end with your hand below your chin and your fingers touching your thumb. As you make the sign, feel your face relax and your eyes get droopy to add to the sleepy effect.

19 - SHARE: 

Share in sign language looks like you are dividing something up into portions. You take your non-dominant arm with hand open and perpendicular to your body with thumb pointing up. Your dominant hand will make a loose T-shape with your weak hand and will wave back and forth as if dividing up a little pile of morsels.

20 - POTTY: 

To sign potty, make your hand into a fist with thumb peeking out between the index finger and the middle finger. Hold the fist out and shake it around a little.

21 - PLAY: 

To sign play, take both hands and extend your pinkie fingers and thumbs, while keeping the rest of your fingers tucked in. Holding the two hands out with palms facing you, shimmy them around a little by twisting them back and forth.




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  • Thank you. My son is non-verbal and it is always welcoming when someone at least asks to be shown how to sign something they want to say to him. :) The fact that people want to learn makes me happy. I taught myself some signs when I was little and never thought I personally would need to use them. Signing Savvy was another website I used to learn more. Although I think they now limit how many words per day. They seem the most accurate to the signs they use in school.

    Kay on

  • Thank you I want to learn more

    Linda Corrao on

  • Very helpful.

    Maria on

  • Love learning signs, my daughter taught me alot of signs she hearing impaired, and has downsyndrome

    William Callaghan on

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