Mia is a toddler who enjoys playing with her toys, shares with her dog, and has a child's laugh. But Mia has a special skill that isn't a laughing matter. Mia is only 18 months old, but for the past eight months she has used sign language to communicate.
"At first my husband and I were only going to do a very few signs and Mia picked up on them," explained her mother Shannon Shanely. "We started signing when Mia was about 7 months old."
Now Mia has a sign language vocabluary of about 70 words.
"A lot of the signs are very intuitive, so thirsty, your throat is dry, and to drink," said Shanely.
Although Mia's favorite sign is milk, she also knows other words like dog, play, car and bus. Some speech pathologists think learning sign language slows verbal communication. Others think learning to sign is actually beneficial.
"It's really great for a lot of times reducing frustrations levels around the house," said speech pathologist Shawn Oliver. "Parents tell me screaming noise levels go down after children learn just a few rudimentary signs."
So far there hasn't been much research on teaching sign language to infants, the idea only became more popular about 10 to 15 years ago.
"The words I have always seen children learn first are words like 'more,'" said sign interpreter Sandy Drummond. "So I'd feed my son, I'd give him a little bite and I'd say, 'You want more?' Then I would show his little hands how to do it. And eventually he learned how to say more."
And Mia is continuing to catch on.
"She's actually using words and signs together now," said Shanely. "And it's nice because a lot of words when she first starts saying them, you can't really understand."
Shanely said she and her husband will continue to teach Mia sign language
"I think it's a beautiful language, and I think it would be really great to keep it up and all of us learn together," said Shanely.