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GSL (Grey Sign Language) and the Cookie Monster


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For the past week and a half or so I've been working with Inara on counting. We progressed from 1, 2, 3 very nicely and she is hitting about 75% accuracy in identifying 1, 2, or 3 fingers (even when different ones are held up) and enjoys saying, "One, two, three," and "two three, good!" "two three, very good job!"


So we began working on "four." (To me) she just didn't seem to be picking it up as quickly as the first three, so I brought out the big guns for treats -- bits of birdie cookie. She would get a sunflower seed (the only time she gets them is when we're actively in a planned learning session) for saying 1,2,3 correctly in sequence, and a bit of cookie when she correctly identified how many fingers (actually I call them toes since they are similar to her toes).


She would accurately count verbally 1,2,3 then nothing for "4" but she would hold one of her feet up every time. I would say to her, "four, four" and then "four will get a cookie." After a couple of sessions like this across a couple of days, this weekend we were doing our thing (she likes to initiate it by saying "2,3," letting me know she wants to play the game), she said, "1,2, 3" then again held up one of her feet, then said "Cookie," and waited expectantly.


I had one of those forehead slap moments! When she first came to live with us, and ever since I've named her body parts, "eyes, beak, wings, and four toes," as I would touch them. I then got her to engage with giving me "high fours," and have said countless times, "Inara has 4 toes."


It hit me that she was counting verbally 1,2,3 and then simply lifting up her "four toes!" for the number four. I began testing this hypothesis, and she was absolutely doing it with intention and asking for a cookie each time, even though she had not been receiving one. Once I realized what she had been doing, and my brain light bulb went off, I now give her a cookie for the sign language "4."


My husband was tickled last night and said that she is the perfect companion for me. I spent many years of my career as a psychologist, you guessed it, working in ASL (American Sign Language) with Deaf clients/patients. I think, had that not been the case, that I may have completely missed what Inara was communicating.


We'll see if she continues using her "4 toes" for "four" as we move on to "five." I've also begun lining up small objects in sets of up to four for her and I simply count each item out loud as I point at it for now, and she joins in, in the counting. I do expect at some point in the future that she will generalize from how many "toes/fingers" to how many of ____ objects. She does identify 2 of something other than fingers -- grapes, carrot shreds, seeds, etc. and is doing really well with variations of 3 fingers. Now that I know what holding up her own four toes means, I'll be testing out if she matches those to my four fingers now and or to four objects.


And the cookie monster? Well, now that she says Cook-ee so clearly, she makes it verrrrrry clear when she would like a bite of one. Usually as I'm walking past her cage, or when she's just given me a few kisses, or when the moon is full, or a snowflake falls, or...... :D :D

Edited by Inara
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What an interesting write up of Inara learning to count. She will indeed learn to generalize those fingers, objects etc. They are amazingly intelligent. It takes a lot of time and persistence, but they will learn the name and number of sounds as well if you teach them. Like tapping 1,2,3 to the nth depending on how high you go. Over the last several years, Dayo has learned numeric association through 10. However, his accuracy starts falling off at 8 and above right now. Especially when counting how many taps I make. The number of objects seems to be easier for them to pick up visually rather than having to keep track of how many times they heard a sound.


Your doing a great job with Inara and she is enjoying the mental challenge. Most greys enjoy flexing there mental muscles when people take the time to teach them. :)

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How cool is that? Every time she raised her foot for "four" she was probably wondering why you were so dull-witted... ;)


You've got *that* right!! hahaha


danmcq and BaileysPapa, they really are fabulous aren't they? Dan that is so cool about Dayo, I will indeed have to add in some sounds, too as we go. BaileysPapa, I love these birds so, too. We're privileged to be able to live among them.

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