CLEARFIELD -- When SuAnn Potter started her family, she knew she wanted to teach her children sign language. She figured that way she could know what they were crying for and potentially avoid many tantrums.
Potter, who has four children between the ages of 18 months and 9 years, has taught them all sign language. Her 18-month-old Cambria already knows between 50 and 100 different signs.
Part of Potter's own motivation for learning sign language was her hearing loss. She was born with a hearing deficit; she has a 30 percent hearing loss in her left ear and a 70 percent loss in her right ear.
"I thought, 'What would happen if I couldn't hear at all?' " she said. "I wanted to be able to communicate with my kids."
She has taken her sign language skills and applied them, not just to her children but also to the four children she watches in her home. Now, she plans to take it a step further through a new course offered in Clearfield.
Clearfield Recreation Supervisor Pat Bergseng said this will be a great class. She was introduced to a DVD series called "Signing Time," which she watched with her 2-year-old grandson.
"It held his attention for a long time, plus he learned all the signs," she said. "It helped him communicate."
That's why she was so excited to have the class come to Clearfield.
"I thought it would be a fabulous program," she said. "I hope people will sign up for it."
The city is offering the baby signing class to children ages 3 months to 3 years and their caregivers. They can learn basic sign language as a form of communication.
Also offered is kinder signing time, which uses songs, activities and stories for 4- and 5-year-olds, as well as their parents, to discover how to communicate and enhance communication using sign language.
Both classes are taught in four-week increments with a total of 16 classes. The first four-week segment began Saturday.
The baby class is from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., while the toddler class is from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Cost is $40 for the four weeks and classes are held at the Community Center, 140 E. Center St.
"This is a wonderful thing," Potter said. "It improves communication between the parent and child."
Potter said it even can help with the troublesome tantrums of children. She explained that the child's frustration stems from not being able to communicate what they want, but with sign language, even a young child can use a gesture to show they want milk.
"It eliminates tantrums in small children," she said. "My daughter can tell me what she wants instead of throwing her plate on the floor or screaming. Even my 3-year-old loves to sign."
She said the key to success is parental involvement. That's why a parent or caregiver must attend with the children. Learning the sign language takes reinforcement and plenty of practice.
The benefits reach beyond learning a second language, which American Sign Language is considered. Potter points to research studies that show that children's performance in school improves and their IQ increases when learning languages.
Bergseng echoed those statements, saying that a child's IQ can increase as much as 12 points.
Besides, Potter said, it's fun for children.
"They think it is a secret language," she said. "But it is a real language and a second language. It's a hands-on second language that they can use throughout their life."
Log onto littlesigningwonders.com to learn more about Potter.