Thursday, September 30, 2010

Infants and Sign Language?

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?

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  1. Love the idea of it. Channing is 6 months old and I just started signing with her this month. I hope we both get really good at it.

  2. I started to sign with my daughter at about 6 months. I would just introduce a word at a time. She now knows so many and uses them correctly. She's 12 months now. It's a great thing. She does not talk very much, actually not at all, so signing is a great way for her to communicate her needs!

  3. We taught some basic words, more, play, please, thank you, etc. as a way to lessen the frustration kids feel when they are learning to talk and we as adults have trouble understanding them.

  4. I keep meaning to start signing with Mason any day now. Unfortunately I've been saying that for about two months!!

  5. I loved signing with my twins! It was so refreshing to get even a little bit of communication. They were big fans of "all done." : D

    Thanks for visiting!!

  6. Cool! Can anyone tell me the sign for "play"? I've pretty much come up with my own signs for everything, except I can't think of one for that :(

  7. this is awesome! my kids learned from school and's amazing and wonderful!i wish i could know as much as them...:) i found a ton of wonderful children on youtube who daughter thinks that the sign for play is thumb and pinkie up while moving hands up and down:) xoxo

  8. Thanks for visiting my blog. I read your profile and I totally LOVE board games. We play games all the time at family get-togethers and with our boys. I would completly join your for Friday night game nights!

    Thanks for the follow- I am following you back.


  9. I never did the signing with my kids, but I had a friend who did it with her daughters. It worked great for her. My kids picked up some stuff at school--Amaya still does the more sign when she's asking for seconds at dinner. It's cute. I wish I would have had the patience to do it with them more. I guess I still could, right?

  10. Kerry, I've been signing with Nate since he was 4 months old (although experts say you can start signing much later - even after 12 mo). He's almost 14 months and signs about 35 signs regularly (speaks several words as well). I cannot recommend signing enough. It is amazing to be able to communicate with your pre-verbal child in such an in-depth manner. I have a whole page dedicated it to it now on my blog if you are interested. Oh, and for PLAY, make a "Y" (pinkie and thumb extended with other fingers down) on each hand and shake :)

  11. Hi, I don't have my own children yet, but I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology...and this is a great time to teach your son will be amazed how quickly he will pick up on "more", "all done"...many, many more. Being able to sign prevents a lot of frustration in many children! Have fun!

  12. Hi! Stopping by from the Thursday blog hop! I'm following you!!

    Kristin :)
    Keenly Kristin

  13. This really works.

    Following your lovely blog.

    I am also inviting you to add your blog and/or business domain at - a directory of blogs and businesses by moms/parents with rate and review tools. What's more? Meet more mom bloggers like you.

    I would appreciate a lot for your follow-back:). Have a great day!

  14. Hi...I found this site to be helpful in learning the signs.

    Hope it helps!

  15. Thanks for following Three Crazy Munchkins and leaving such a nice comment! I'm now following back.
    I did sign language with my first 2 kids (and have been really bad about starting it with my 3rd...) and it worked great. I just did the basics- please, thank you, more, water, eat- things like that. I really should start with my littlest one.... thanks for reminding me!

    ps- your little one is adorable!

  16. I love baby sign. I started at about 6 or 7 months old and am not as good as I would like to be but she is doing well with it (not as good as Nate--I see Amber already made a comment here, she is amazing at baby sign). She can do more, all done, nurse, eat, drink, and book. At meal time it is especially helpful cause she can tell me exactly what she wants, now we just have to get her to sign please!

  17. One of the best benefits we have found with baby sign language is that it starts to teach them manners long before you would with them just learning to speak. Our not-quite-2-year-old can say "please" and "thank you" with very few reminders because we've been teaching him for over a year now just with signs. Another great one for us has been "all done". It helps to know if he's really done eating or just taking a break. :) We've found baby signing to be hugely beneficial for our family!

  18. I am all for sign language for babies and toddlers. It gives the young child an ability to communicate their message before they have the verbal skills to do so.

    It's a fun activity, to be enjoyed by all who participate and hopefully should avoid some of the tantrums.

  19. Thanks for linking up your sign language post Kerry! I saw that the guest author mentioned a study funded by the NIH. Here's an article on that study if you are interested:


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