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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Here's Your Sign - Communicating with Your Baby Through Sign Language

Teaching sign language to babies is growing in popularity by the minute. Parents are showing babies as young as six months old how to ask for what they want, and by nine months, many babies are communicating with simple hand motions. Books, DVDs, and websites give both parent and baby the information they need to talk through sign language. Does it work?

Picture this: My nine-month-old sits in his highchair. I'm feeding him oatmeal and banana mush for breakfast. He reaches up and yanks off his bib, then hands it to me. Normally, this is his personal sign language for "Get thee back with thine breakfast mush. I have finished." But today, he does the sign for "more," something we've been working on. Confused, I offer him another spoonful of oatmeal. He pushes away the spoon and holds out both arms - to my fruit smoothie. Am I convinced baby sign works? Definitely.

Some parents question whether or not this will hinder a baby's ability to talk. After all, if they can sign to you that they have a headache, why would they ever learn to say it? Ah, that's the beauty of it all! Researchers have found that babies who are taught to sign often talk sooner than non-signers. Signing babies realize sooner that they can be understood, and it's exciting for them - not a hindrance.

One website I've found quite beneficial is Signing With Your Baby. This site gives all sorts of information for parents wondering whether or not they want to start signing. There are pictures of small children and babies doing the signs, and there are lots of articles that cover concerns such as "Will my baby still learn to talk?" You can find links to research here and products to help you along.

So here's your sign - communicating with your baby doesn't have to be a frustrating guessing game. Through some very simple sign language, you can jump start the interaction between you and your little bambino!


Tracy said...

Great topic AnoMa! As a speech language pathologist, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have said here. The reason sign language encourages verbal language is this: In every baby brain, there are certain areas that will be dedicated to language. The only way these areas get used for this function is via language stimulation and use. By having the ability to use a form of expressive language earlier, this part of the brain begins to function earlier, thus strengthening the neural connections and pathways for expressive language. Basically, this part of the brain doesn't know the difference between "hand language" or "mouth language". The implication is that this early language use can strengthen a person's capacity for language for life. How cool.

The Anonymous Mama said...

Wow! Great comment! I was hoping you'd have something to add to this one. That's just amazing that it can affect their language for life. Doesn't it blow your mind how things that happen even this early in a baby's life can help mold it later? Thanks!

Antonette said...

As an ASL Interpreter, it was important to me to teach my own child to use ASL. I have a number of Deaf friends and knew that my son would be around them as much as I am. I began signing with him before we brought him home from the hospital, and he began signing back at five months. It in no way hindered his spoken language development. His pediatrician even commented at his two year check up how advanced his spoken language is for his age. He now uses signs and speech, and at 26 months, knows to use his hands when around Deaf friends and their families.

A colleague of mine and I set up classes in our area, based on comments from a local mother's group. They wanted to learn how to sign with their children. We have a variety of ages who attend our classes now, including those with speech/language delays, parents of infants identified with a hearing loss, and those who just want to learn ASL.

Feel free to check out my blog:

The Anonymous Mama said...

I love, love input like this from people who experience these things from a personal and a professional viewpoint! It really helps drive the point home. And how wonderful that your son will grow with the skill to communicate with a whole other group of people that most of the hearing miss out on getting to know. Nice blog, by the way!

Dana said...

i have been teaching my daugher signing and she loves it!! great post

oh amanda said...

My daughter is 2 and signs about 100 words. It's been so helpful. Plus, it's cute! ;)