My daughter has learned a fair bit of sign language to help her overcome the communication barrier due to her autism. By itself, spoken words give only one sensory “bridge” between the word and the concept; signing gives her three: auditory, visual and kinetic. It seems to be (slowly) working, as the few words she does say vocally are the ones that she's been signing the longest.
Just like spoken languages, you encounter local variations in ASL. It's been kind of frustrating to look up signs on the Internet and discover different sites teaching different signs for the same concept in ASL. Anyway, after some searching I ran into Lifeprint.com, which at least tries to document the variations and give you an idea of what's the most common.
Anyway, below are some signs my daughter knows. She doesn't always spontaneously make the signs when she wants something, but she will usually make them if you say the word or show her the corresponding object. Try them out on her the next time you see her!
- Mom and Dad (She tends to just point at the top of her head for “Dad.”)
- Baby (She rocks her whole body back and forth instead of just her arms.)
- All done
- Milk (Easy: Think of squeezing a cow's udder.)
- Water (She loves this sign. If she makes it, it's not because she's thirsty. It means she wants you to turn on the faucet so she can play with the water!)
- Potty (Not potty trained yet, but she understands the sign.)
- Thank you (Still working on this one!)
- Stop (She doesn't really understand this as a command yet. Signing “stop” and “go” is mostly a game at this point.)
- More (We're teaching her to use this one in conjunction with “Please.”)
- Dog (Multiple variations on this one; the one she knows is slapping the thigh then snapping, although she doesn't actually snap.)
- Duck (She just uses the first two fingers and the thumb.)