Vail Valley preschoolers learning to sign |

Vail Valley preschoolers learning to sign

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Photo by Lauren Glendenning

VAIL, Colorado ” Two-year old Tatum Wells doesn’t say much, but she already knows how to use American Sign Language to talk to her teachers and parents in Colorado’s Vail Valley.

Linda Wells, Tatum’s mother, said her daughter was using sign language before she could talk. Wells and her husband taught her a little bit, but she leaned more at the Trinity Preschool in Edwards.

Jeanelle Sandoval, Trinity’s preschool director, began working at the school as a teacher last year and brought her passion for sign language with her.

“It really combats dyslexia,” she said. “It enhances their reading skills.”

Sandoval’s son was born with some problems, which is why she started looking for ways to help him communicate better. She remembered watching a family member who was deaf as a child – Sandoval loved watching her use sign language.

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She says the sign language helps the children see their speech. They can associate letters in the alphabet with something they can see, and it helps their brains develop both visually and cognitively, she said.

“I think we’re building a learning foundation,” she said.

Wells uses programs from Time to Sign, a learning company that provides the sign language curriculum. Trinity Preschool uses Time to Sign’s songs, games and stories to get the children excited and interested in what they’re learning, Sandoval said.

Time to Sign’s programs are based on research that two-sided brain activity helps overall brain functioning – the right side helps visual brain development while the left side helps cognitive brain development, according to Time to Sign’s Web site.

Sandoval said the sign language is a second language for the children. According to, that helps learning more languages easier.

Trinity Preschool is also sending children home with sheets showing parents the different signs the children have learned. Parents can then learn new signs as their children do, making communicating at home a lot easier, Wells said.

“Before (Tatum) could talk, this helped her to be able to communicate with us,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to have – it’s a great second language.”

For children as young as preschoolers, the signing is fairly basic. The children sing songs together while signing, and they watch and listen during storytelling time and learn signs for different words and letters. The teachers then try to use sign language throughout the day during most of their communication with each other.

The children have also started paying attention to people’s facial expressions, Sandoval said. They associate facial expressions with emotions, which is something sign language teaches, she said.

“They’re more receptive to other people’s feelings,” Sandoval said. “It also lowers the noise level – I don’t have to scream at them to line up.”

Sandoval said the sign language has also helped them with manners. The children all know the signs for “please” and “thank you” – something little Tatum is using at home, Wells said.

Sandoval is passionate about the potential sign language has for education, but sometimes she said teaching it can be as simple as watching them.

“It’s just so cute to watch them,” Sandoval said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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