A Guest Post
One of the keys to surviving in a tilted economic system is versatility – and the ability to communicate in a variety of ways. This includes bilingual ability, as well as communicating non-verbally for the benefit of the disabled – primarily the deaf.
Now, it may sound a little early to start worrying about your toddler’s odds of getting a job 20 some years from now, but wouldn’t it be nice to help him/her get a head start?
Right now, a growing shortage of qualified interpreters fluent in American Sign Language has led to more career opportunities – and if current trends continue, it's likely that skilled ASL interpreters will have little problem securing lucrative employment in this field.
Signing Before They Can Speak
A great deal of research has demonstrated that the early years – ages 2 to 5 – are the best time to educate children in different modes of communication and language. This goes beyond the spoken word; many young children have an aptitude for signing as well.
This is not as odd as you may think. Many indigenous peoples around the world, including American Indian nations, have used sign language for centuries to communicate with other tribes. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate.
In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands.
The author also cites a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children.
The Best Time To Start
Not only does early childhood education in signing give pre-verbal youngsters a way to communicate, it can also strengthen the parent-child bond – in addition to giving children a solid foundation for learning a skill that will serve them well in the future. The evidence suggests that the best time to start learning ASL is before a child can even walk – and the implications for facilitating the parent-child relationship are amazing.
Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Texas day care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose day care schools. Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.
So, I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been signing with Niall until this week. I just hadn't really thought about it. I am definitely going to try it more often (although it will have to be our own little private, non-sensical version for now). Has anyone out there attempted sign language with your toddler? Did you find that it worked well?