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Grow n' Tell by Baby Says More™

By giving parents a way to communicate with their pre-verbal babies, Grow n' Tell both reduces frustration & supports parent/child bonding.

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Baby Says More™



What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD


  • For-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Parents don’t always understand what it is that their baby wants and perhaps are too tired at times to try and figure it out before their babies have a complete meltdown. It’s difficult to differentiate your baby’s cries and crying is an anxiety provoking behavior that can be replaced altogether. By replacing the communicative behavior of crying with signing, parents can reduce both theirs and their baby’s frustration that physiologically results from the act of crying.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

There are a plethora of baby sign products that exist today, none of which have been empirically tested for efficacy. Flash cards employ drills and speed as an instructional method, which is quite contradictory to what we currently know about language development; that is, language is acquired in context in a natural environment such as the baby’s home. Books that describe HOW TO teach your baby to sign are flat and don’t allow parents to interact with an expert. Classes are a pain to drag your baby to and often spend most of the time entertaining the baby signing to music, which is fun but does not teach parents how to use signs to communicate with their babies in their regular, daily routines. Parents can learn from the comfort of their own homes (where they will teach their babies to sign) in their little free time. The course not only provides parents with a clinically proven method to teaching their babies to sign, but it also gives video examples of real babies at different phases of development, comes with a 75+ sign video dictionary and allows parents to support one another and seek advice from an expert via the closed FB group. Furthermore, Grow n' Tell by Baby Says More™ is available in both English and Spanish (including bilingual support)!

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Some benefits to teaching your baby to sign include: • Reduced baby distress resulting from communication breakdowns, • Reduced crying and tantrums, • Parents with increased self-confidence, • Improved parent-child communication, • Strengthened parent-child bond, • Increased joint attention and engagement in two-way conversation, • Advanced comprehension, • Larger expressive and receptive oral language vocabularies, and • Enhanced literacy if signing is paired with reading.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

• I will sell membership to the bilingual, online program. For a one-time fee of $99, parents get a lifetime membership that can be used with each subsequent baby. • Parents will not only receive access to the 4 module course and 75 sign video dictionary, but they will also be part of a bilingual, international, support community of parents and myself (the baby signing expert). • In the future I will definitely add different membership levels and courses, such as a course for day care programs/providers and for parents of children with delayed speech and language. • I offer Skype sessions for parents who don’t feel comfortable just using the course itself. Skype sessions are an add-on to the course itself as opposed to a separate entity, which means that only members have access to this service.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Parents who want to: • reduce their baby’s frustration • reduce their frustration • introduce communication before the onset of spoken language • enhance later verbal and academic development • increase the parent-child bond • feel more confident in their parenting • learn interactively in the comfort of their own homes • feel supported during their baby’s signing journey, and thus, more successful • give their bilingual (or multilingual) child an alternative means of communication while his/her language seems delayed or he/she experiences a perceived silent period • give their twins/multiples a method of communicating with one another (or between each other) • be SUPER PARENTS Parents who have used the program felt as if their children seemed more relaxed due to their ability of communication their wants and needs. Parents are calmer because they know what their babies want. Some parents even reported greater ease in communicating with monolingual family members for bilingual babies who have different word inventories in each language. Beneficiaries include 0-3 programs servicing multilingual families by offering a solution to parents to enhance their child's communicative competence and give him/her a head start in language and cognitive development. It's an especially excellent tool for those parents raising multilingual children, especial. Childcare programs could also benefit from using sign with their little ones to promote independence.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Baby Says More™ is going to give a voice to babies around the globe (preverbal babies and language delayed toddlers). It's going to empower parents to enhance their babies cognitive development while forging an unbreakable bond that at times can seem difficult to achieve with a newborn. Ultimately, daycare centers and nursery programs will utilize the program with their students and their families to promote bonding, inclusion, early communication skills, enhanced cognitive development, and even give a method of communication to those children who present with language delay or deficit. In addition, the course is a useful tool for parents of children who exhibit language delay or deficit. It's an excellent tool to help navigate delayed language, which is typically incredibly frustrating for both the child and parent. Multilingual children often display what appears to be delayed language or a regression of skills, neither of which is in fact the case the case, but during this time, parents can use baby sign as their child absorbs language input from each of his/her languages and begins to organize it into separate systems.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Many people from low-income households are bilingual and have difficulty navigating bilingual language development. Grow n' Tell by Baby Says More™ is the perfect solution for agencies who are established to help such individuals to help introduce language as early as birth. This will hopefully help to close the word gap that exists between children form different socio-economic levels. The price of the course can be out of reach for certain parents. I am open to working directly with parents to make it more affordable for them, whether via a payment plan or a group rate for multiple families. I think the best way to reach the community is to provide a special plan for organizations who work with families who have fewer resources. By educating the specialists who provide services to families, Baby Says More can increase its reach in helping to promote language development.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

The concept of teaching one's baby to sign is not new, but the method of delivery most certainly is. Not only can the course be accessed from anyone on the world with an internet connection, but it includes a video sign dictionary and a forum to ask me questions and correspond with other parents. For those who would like more individualized attention, course members are able to purchase Skype sessions with me to learn how to apply the Grow n' Tell methodology effectively . Most of the products out there are flat, such as books and flashcards, and aren't always used appropriately. Baby sign videos are not interactive and do not reflect typical communicative interaction. Grow n' Tell can be taken from the comfort of home, which happens to be you're baby's natural language learning environment. The online forum included in the course provides a platform for parents and caregivers to correspond throughout their signing journeys, as well as ask me any questions. Parents can even request for signs to be added to the course dictionary in the forum.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

The course is online and available in 2 languages. The goal is to have speech and language pathologists (like myself) from around the globe join the team, translate the course, and support speakers of their languages on Facebook and Skype. There is very little investment in expansion other than web development. Adding languages to an already established site is not very costly, nor is site maintenance. Furthermore, I would like to make the course available to parents on a smaller scale and available to nursery schools, day care programs, and organizations on a larger scale. This would involve scaling the amount of material offered and the manner in which users log in to the course. Again, this type of web development is not very costly and I make all course materials myself. The final goal is to make the web-based course an app so that parents can feel comfortable reading on the go and quickly access any course materials at any given time.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

I have tested the course on both English and Spanish-speaking users. The feedback has been entirely positive and parents have reported reduced child frustration, increased ease in daily parenting tasks, highly communicative children, highly verbal children once spoken language emerges, increased ease in communicating in multilingual families (even more so when either side of the family is monolingual), and a feeling of closeness and bonding through signing. The team currently consists of a certified Speech Language Pathologist (me) and a Public Relations Specialist who manage all operations. The site was developed and continues to be maintained and hosted by Josiesque Designs. Now that the website is built, maintenance is not very costly. Here are two personas that seem to be most drawn to the course thus far: Persona 1: • Super outdoorsy • Loves yoga and meditation • Lives a green lifestyle • Perhaps vegan or vegetarian • Not necessarily a top income household • Very drawn to constructive, educational, intellectual, non-tangible products -- understands the importance of promoting his/her child's independence Persona 2: • Stay at home dads or dads who are highly involved parents • Highly educated • Very forward thinkers and open-minded, beyond societal constraints • Likely very technologically minded, whether in the tech world for work or tech savvy at the least • Perfectionist • Understands the importance of promoting independence

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

There are many regions where baby sign courses are desired yet unavailable, so the fact that Grow n' Tell is digital opens doors to even the most remote places.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

Throughout the development of the course I have collected feedback from test users. I have adapted the course to suit their needs and will continue to do so as time goes on. Parents not only learn using the course, but they can interact with Grow n' Tell by asking each other and me questions in the online forum. This affords each course user access to individualized feedback, which is not characteristic of most baby sign products.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

Besides the countless experience that I have working with individuals with speech, language and learning disabilities, I taught my niece baby sign 6 years ago and got to see how powerful early onset communication is for the entire family. She used signs to communicate her basic wants and needs, including food, drinks, more, play, dance, music, and book, just to name a few. My niece did not need to cry to communicate because she had another means of getting her wants and needs met. It was evident to all that knew her that she had a laid back way about her that translated over to her parents. They were not as worried about her because they knew how she felt and what she needed. At work, I have seen countless students from 2 to 21 years of age have the chance to communicate for the first time when verbal language was not yet an option, via basic signs as well as technological voice output systems. The rules for teaching such systems are the same. These are the rules that I compiled for parents to use to teach their babies to sign. Having the opportunity to teach parents around the globe how to communicate with their infants has been incredibly rewarding. I love connecting my passions for language and technology. I have serviced students of all ages with various speech and language profiles. Baby Says More™ is here to support all parents, including those whose children exhibit speech delay.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

In the future, I will need partners from around the globe specializing in speech language pathology who speak various languages. The sky is the limit! That being said, a few languages that I am very interested in including in the course are Mandarin, Cantonese and Arabic. I will also need an app developer to make the online course and video dictionary an app. Once the course is a smartphone or tablet app, it's reach will be even greater.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

The opportunity for help is endless. It would be great to collaborate with videographers and photographers, speech language pathologists, early childhood educators, education-based organizations, non-profit organizations, online courses in the sector, daycare centers, nursery programs, government agencies, bloggers, app developers, app companies and occupational therapists, to name a few.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • No

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Michelle Lerner is the founder of Baby Says More. She helps parents like you to teach their infants baby sign in their natural language environments. Michelle holds the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence for Speech and Language Pathologists (CCC-SLP), the New York State License to practice Speech and Language Pathology and the Professional Certificate for Teachers of Students with Speech and Language Disabilities (TSSLD) with a Bilingual Extension in English/Spanish.

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

NOTE: The minimum age for teaching babies to communicate via sign is from birth. Let me elaborate a little for you. Can a child learn to communicate via sign from birth? Not as early as birth, but shortly thereafter. The importance of teaching your baby to sign from birth is for YOU as the parent or caregiver to get into the routine of using sign day in and day out throughout your baby's routine. I recommend that parents/caregivers adopt the habit as early on as possible so that when their babies do have the ability to sign back (at approximately 6 months of age onward), then they will have had sufficient exposure to sign throughout their daily routines.


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Photo of Sandra Sobanska

Dear Michelle we're so impressed with your method and the submission. We would love to connect with you as we think there is scope for impact between our projects (and definitely enriching exchange of experiences!) - what would be a good way? Please feel free to connect with me at :)

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