~Sign With Love~

Sign Language Programs for Hearing Families

Signing With Children

Q1. Why should I sign with my hearing child when he is already developing normally?

Signing with your child can: 
   •Accelerate verbal language development. 
   •Increase IQ. 
   •Encourage interest in books. 
   •Stimulate intellectual development. 
   •Enhance parent-child interaction. 
   •Empower him to express his wants, needs, and feelings sooner. 
   •Reduce frustration and avert temper tantrums. 
   •Build self-esteem.

Q2. When should I start signing with my child?

A. In their book, Baby Signs, Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn suggest you can start modeling signs from birth. After 6 months, however, children are more likely to possess the ability to remember signs and the motor skills to produce them. You can consider the indicators of readiness below to determine whether your child is showing interest in communicating. If you answer "Yes" to any one of these questions, then this is a good time to sign with your child. For most children, readiness occurs between 8 and 12 months of age, although sign language can be useful to fill in the gaps of communication throughout toddler hood. 
   •Is your child at least 6 months old? 
   •Is your child bringing objects to you and looking for a response? 
   •Is your child beginning to wave bye-bye or clap his hands?
   •Is your child beginning to shake his head "yes" or "no"? 
   •Is your child beginning to take an interest in picture books, playing “so big” or finger games (i.e., itsy bitsy spider)? 
   •Is your child frustrated when you don't understand what he needs? 
   •If your child is a little older, are there still important things he or she doesn't have words for? (It’s never too late!)

Q3. How long will it be before my child signs to me?

A. It depends, but if you begin signing when your child is 6-7 months old, it is quite possible that by the time your child reaches 8-9 months he will be signing to you. Some children do not start signing back until they are closer to 12 months old. Typically, they will start with the signs and gestures that involve facial expression (blowing, panting), then whole arm signs (i.e., bye bye, clapping), then hand signs (i.e., more, milk) and finally signs involving various hand shapes and more dexterity (i.e., cat, pointing) Once they have internalized the meanings of the signs and have developed the cognitive and motor skills necessary to sign, they will communicate with you. This process is similar to a child learning speech.

Q4. Does using sign language with young children interrupt or delay their speech development?

A. Actually, research states the opposite is true. Using American Sign Language with your child can accelerate speech development. Since they are already using language in their heads and putting signed words together to communicate things; when their speech articulators are able to form the sounds, they quickly add speech to their signs. Gradually, they drop the signs and only use the spoken word. Much like crawling does not inhibit a child’s ability to walk; there has been no indication of a resulting speech delay from using sign language.

Q5. Do I have to learn an entire new language?

A. The intention of using sign language is not to teach you or your child a second language, but to facilitate earlier communication. You will be supporting spoken English by modeling signs for key words. Your child will then sign those key words that will become the foundation for language exposure.  Sign language “pulls” verbal language from adults. When children use sign language to call attention to things, adults quite naturally respond with lots of appropriate words (e.g., “Oh! You see a kitty! That’s right! That is a kitty! That kitty looks just like our kitty, doesn’t it!”). And we know that the more language a child hears, the faster language acquisition proceeds. 

     Acredolo, L. and Goodwyn, S. Baby Signs: How to Talk with Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk.  New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2002

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